Why Navjot Singh Sidhu is in his corner without compromise

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Navjot Singh Sidhu
Image Credit: PTI

To understand why Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as leader of the Congress Party in Punjab, we need to understand who he is politically in Punjab.

Sidhu is one of the few politicians who have moved from the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party in India to the struggling Congress party. The traffic usually goes the other way.

A successful cricketer in his day, he retired from the field in 1999. In 2001 he became a popular cricketer commentator, gaining attention for his unique one-liners known as “Sidhuisms”. This made him a suitable choice for mundane comedy television – he was quickly a judge on comedic reality shows and even appeared in Bigg Boss.

The acting career has given Siddhu a casual image that makes people outside Punjab wonder how he could be taken seriously as a politician.

Sidhu joined the BJP in 2004. The BJP was, until recently, an ally of the Sikh-led party of Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal, or SAD. In other words, Sidhu was a member of the Akali-BJP alliance which ruled the Punjab from 2007 to 2017. During these ten years, the SAD became extremely unpopular for the alleged corruption, the massive availability of narcotics and the usual economic problems of industries, of farmers. , and youth.

At that time, Sidhu quietly positioned himself as a champion of the aspirations of the people. The guy who would talk about how people were feeling. The leader who didn’t feel embarrassed by party affiliation by calling a spade a spade. This image he still has, although the extent of his popularity to this day could be a matter of debate.

When Sidhu was the X factor

Despite being appointed to the upper house of India’s parliament, the Rajya Sabha, by the BJP, Sidhu resigned in 2017 to join Congress ahead of the legislative elections.

It was an election where the new Aam Aadmi (AAM) party stood as the new foreigner representing the common man, taking on established political elites, bludgeoning Congress, SAD and BJP together as part of the problem. In such a chessboard, Sidhu would have been perfectly suited. If the AAP had taken Sidhu and declared him as their top cabinet candidate, they would have swept the election.

But the insecure AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal wanted to win the election in his own name and did not want to create a regional satrap who could challenge Kejriwal’s authority. Sidhu joined Congress, making Captain Amarinder Singh’s victory much easier.

Captain Amarinder Singh became Chief Minister and did not get along with an ambitious Sidhu. He left his post as minister in the captain’s office in 2019. This wise decision has allowed him to retain the image of the rebel of the people who refuse to make a Faustian deal with power.

Cases of sacrilege

One of the problems that made the SAD government extremely unpopular was the “sacrilege” cases. This refers to three incidents in 2015. A “Saroop” or an original copy of Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest book of Sikhs which is kept in the center of all Gurudwara, was stolen from a village in Faridkot district in June. 2015.

In Sikh religious politics, it was an earthquake. That was not all. Posters contained blasphemous words, threats and challenges to find the stolen holy book. Torn pages were discovered a few days later.

Huge protests erupted in Punjab. In two incidents, police fired at demonstrators. In the second such incident, two people died.

The SAD government has been accused by political opponents of being responsible for these incidents and of doing very little to bring those responsible to justice.

By 2021, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had become unpopular, accused of not doing much with the opportunity given to him. Among the things he is accused of not doing is the inability to close cases of sacrilege.

Injured at retirement

As Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are not known to like Amarinder Singh, they found the right opportunity to show his place to the 79-year-old captain. Sidhu was made party leader and before the captain could swallow the insult, he was ousted.

Congress has played well at this point, giving the Punjab its Dalit Chief Prime Minister in Charanjit Singh Channi. It was a smart move, as Congress was able to do with a few new Dalit voters to make up for the loss of votes due to general discontent over the indifferent government he was leading.

As party leader, Navjot Singh Sidhu was not too disturbed by Channi as CM. Sidhu thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to launch a campaign posing as the new messiah who would tackle the issues of drugs, corruption, cases of sacrilege, and generally not be afraid to let loose. the long arm of the Akali law. . The captain was seen to be too gentle with the Akalis.

Three bad dates bamboozled Sidhu’s story

So far, so good. But CM Channi has made three appointments that absolutely no one in his party is able to defend. These three appointments make it difficult for Sidhu to lead the kind of campaign he was planning.

The first was the elevation to ministerial post of a corrupt legislator, Rana Gurjeet Singh. It’s bad enough that Channi didn’t induct Sidhu’s favorites. But that added insult to injury.

The second was the appointment of lawyer APS Deol as general counsel for the Punjab. Deol defended Sumedh Singh Saini in court. Saini was the director general of the Punjab police when police fired at anti-sacrilege protesters.

He was in jail in another case and was recently released on bail. Sikh sentiments are so strong on this issue that making APS Deol the Advocate General is being projected by some as proof that Congress is in bed with those responsible for sacrilege cases.

The third is the appointment of Iqbal Singh Sahota as the new director general of the Punjab police. Sahota led a special investigative team into the sacrilege issue in 2015 and reportedly gave Akali’s government and the then police a “grade ticket”.

Sidhu is right to say that these three appointments make it difficult for him to run a campaign that promises to be pro-popular. Note that Sidhu is not the only one to criticize these three appointments.

All opposition parties have criticized them as well, and no congressional leader, regardless of faction or stature, is in a position to defend them. This is what Sidhu meant when he wrote in his resignation letter: “The collapse of a man’s character comes from the corner of compromise. These are the compromises Sidhu did not want to make.

In a video Sidhu posted, he said: “People who gave the accused a good blow in cases of sacrilege have been rewarded. Whoever obtained bail for an accused is now a general counsel. Those who kidnapped the children of the Punjabian mothers were rewarded. There is a network of corrupt leaders and officers. You can’t change the system by bringing back the same people.

In this case, Sidhu’s objections make sense not only from his own point of view but also from that of the Congress Party.

Sidhu vs. Channi

Beyond these three appointments, Sidhu cannot rejoice over the appointment of SS Randhawa as Chief Deputy Minister with the Home Office portfolio. Sidhu sees Randhawa as a rival as both belong to the same dominant Jatt Sikh community.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Channi, with just five months to warm his chair, presents himself as a leader of the common man, as opposed to the unapproachable prince the captain was. The Punjab has 33% of Dalit voters who are unable to find a political voice in a state dominated by the Jatt Sikhs.

It is possible that Sidhu is also concerned that Channi will grow too big for his boots and remain chief minister if Congress wins the March 2022 election.

Sidhu might well say – guess the worst about me, but what about the facts of those tainted dates? It is now up to the Gandhi family to answer this very pertinent question.


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