Navjot Sidhu's political career a question mark

Chandigarh, July 12 (IANS) This could be the proverbial last straw. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been "missing" from Punjab politics and his Lok Sabha constituency for the last few months. But the cricketer-turned-politician-turned-comedy show host may have bitten off more than he could chew when he chose to stay away from the two-day state executive meeting of the BJP's Punjab unit in Amritsar, - the home city of his constituency.

The fact that Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh addressed the state executive July 7-8 but Sidhu still chose to stay away tells the story of his alienation from the party that he joined in 2004. Sidhu remained absent from the crucial BJP meeting on both days as also from his constituency before that, although he continued to make appearances on TV shows. He was not even seen making arrangements for the meet.

Sidhu, who was considered close to previous BJP president Nitin Gadkari and was a party secretary during his tenure, has been miffed with the party after Rajnath Singh failed to include him in the new BJP team.

During the state executive meeting, Rajnath Singh, without naming anyone, told party leaders that "leaders who are not available to the people should leave the party".

Sidhu's absence was also conspicuous at the Sankalp rally of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi near Pathankot June 23. This was Modi's first big rally after taking charge of the BJP's national poll panel for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Kamal Sharma, president of BJP's Punjab unit, chose to downplay Sidhu's absence.

"The party is like a family and not like army. Sidhu is busy with his profession and as soon as he is free, he will be back. Besides, he is in touch with Rajnath Singh," Sharma explained.

This is not the first time that Sidhu, who is often seen as a cricket expert on sports and news channels and laughing uncontrollably on comedy shows, has been missing from action from his Amritsar political pitch.

He had done the vanishing act from his constituency in 2009 as well when he kept away for a good three months after getting upset with some BJP leaders.

Referring to Sidhu's absence from his constituency, his wife Navjot Kaur, a BJP legislator from the Amritsar-East seat and a chief parliamentary secretary (a rank below a minister) in the Punjab government, had said in April that her husband was feeling slighted by the leaders of own party.

Sidhu, who has won the Amritsar seat thrice - in 2004, 2006 (by-election) and 2009, does not seem to have a long political future in Amritsar with the Akali Dal already hobnobbing with the BJP to leave the seat for them and take the Patiala Lok Sabha seat instead.

Amid all the speculation over his absence, Sidhu's name has started doing the rounds in Congress circles. Though senior Congress leaders label him an "opportunist" and do not want him in the party, who knows that Sidhu and the Congress may find some common ground in future.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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