The fourth front in Punjab has turned out to be a still born idea which got more hype because of the personalities associated with it rather than any gravitas in the move.
When Navjot Singh Sidhu, former cricketer, announced the formation of Awaaz-e-Punjab forum, flanked by former India hockey captain, Pargat Singh, the earnestness in his intent to provide a political alternative was quite enticing. And with the fierce Badal-critics, the independent Bains brother MLAs too by his side, the political watchers were forced to admit that Punjab would be seeing a battle royale in 2017.
However, just two weeks after he made the grand promise of coming back with a blueprint of the electoral fight he was preparing to offer, Navjot Singh Sidhu has gone back on the implied promise and announced that the forum will not graduate into a political party.
Not only does the decision come as a setback to those who were aligned with him-Pargat Singh and Bains brothers-but it also takes away a lot of sheen from Sidhu’s own political persona too. The general impression carried by the sudden U-turn is that he has given up the fight realising the uphill battle. There are others who feel that he was always a B team of the BJP and did not want to take on the party in the electoral heat even though he has always been fiercely critical of the Badals.
AAP has been understandably elated by Sidhu’s refusal to launch a party. The party greatly feared a division of votes in case he too cast his net in the political fray and given the antipathy he was harbouring against Arvind Kejriwal after his failed attempt to get into AAP, there were chances that his front would damage AAP chances a great deal. No wonder, HS Phoolka was quick to tweet his relief and thanked Sidhu and Pargat Singh for the decision.
The announcement has also come as a dampener for the SAD and Congress, who were expecting Sidhu to take away a chunk of AAP votes. While Captain Amarinder Singh gave caustic comments on Sidhu’s comedy show political credibility, SAD described the move as an admission of defeat. The Akalis said Sidhu was trying to confuse the voters with a new alliance which cannot be imagined without forming a political outfit.
Out of Rajya Sabha, out of BJP and now left with no political outfit of his own, Navjot Singh Sidhu will not be able to play that key a role in the Punjab elections as he would have if he had announced a political party. His oratory and smart one liners will definitely gather large crowd and even larger applause but it is difficult to perceive him drawing equally large number of votes.