Siddhu resurfaces, becomes a major headache

Chandigarh, Sep 20 (IANS) His absence from his Lok Sabha constituency for nearly eight months made news. Now, his presence is making even bigger news and creating political noise in Punjab. Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Amritsar, Navjot Singh Sidhu seems to be in no mood to go on the defensive to explain his absence. Rather, he is taking the fight to those who tried to sideline him.

Certainly a celebrity leader in his own right, the cricketer-turned-politician is upset not with any opposition party but leaders of his own BJP and its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Sidhu has made no bones about being systematically ignored by the ruling alliance, particularly in his Amritsar constituency.

He has blamed Akali Dal president and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia for not bothering about Amritsar's development. To play his cards well, Sidhu asks if this is the treatment meted out to the Sikh holy city, which is home to the holiest of Sikh shrines - Harmandar Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple) - what would be the plight of other cities?

Sidhu, who till earlier this month, was on the backfoot to justify his longish absence from his Lok Sabha constituency, has now come out all guns blazing against the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government for not doing enough for Amritsar.

"My fight is not a personal one or against anyone. I am saying all this for Amritsar's interests," Sidhu claimed.

As he continued to make regular appearances on TV shows - from those on cricket to laughter and reality shows - a NGO put up posters of the "missing MP" and even offered a reward for him. Sidhu justified his TV appearances saying that they were his "bread and butter". He said that if senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who is a top lawyer, and Sukhbir Badal, who is a millionaire businessman, can continue with their respective professions despite being in politics, there was nothing wrong in what he was doing.

Even in his cricketing days, Sidhu was known for his maverick ways. At one time, he was described as being too slow in his batting while he ended up his cricket career nicknamed 'Sixer Sidhu' for the number of sixes he had started hitting. He had once even walked out of the team during a tour to England following differences with senior players.

Even in Punjab's politics, Sidhu does not have too many friends, either in the BJP or in the Akali Dal.

While Sidhu's political assault has taken the Akali Dal and the BJP by surprise, he has not been saved from the retorts of Sukhbir Badal, Majithia and even the BJP.

Badal tried to brush away Sidhu's outburst as "an internal matter of the BJP", justifying it by saying that most of Sidhu's complaints concerned departments which were held by BJP ministers. Majithia was more forthright saying: "If I open my mouth, many things will come out".

The BJP leadership in Punjab has cleverly chosen against majorly reacting to Sidhu. Behind the scene efforts are being made through senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar to resolve Sidhu's issues with the party and the Badal government.

Given the present state of affairs, Akali Dal and BJP politicians must be thinking that a 'missing' Sidhu was any day better than the one they are facing now.

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

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