Four months after he heaped scorn on the Congress and made vitriolic comments against Punjab Pradesh Congress committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday adorned the Congress colours.
After much dilly-dallying and behind the scenes maneouvering, the Congress has finally been able to get Sidhu into its fold in a move which it hopes will pay rich dividends in the Assembly polls. However, it is quite clear that the enthusiasm for getting the former cricketer turned politician into Congress was more on part of the party high command and the detractors of Capt Amarinder Singh within the party than on the part of the Punjab unit.
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After Sidhu floated his independent Awaaz-e-Punjab forum along with former SAD MLA Pargat Singh and the Independent MLAs, Bains brothers, from Ludhiana, he had hit out at Amarinder saying he and Parkash Singh Badal were both sides of one coin and that Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal were playing a friendly match with each other. Amarinder too had lost no time in hitting out at Sidhu calling him a clown and a comedian and it was clear that there was no love lost between the two.
However, after it appeared that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was keen on having Sidhu on board, Amarinder mellowed his stance and started referring to Sidhu’s Congress pedigree and that his father was a Congressman too.
While Sidhu’s oratory and crowd pulling abilities have been much admired in his original party, the BJP, too, yet his inability to take a firm political stand in Punjab has caused a lot of damage to his image. The Congress may have fielded his name from Amritsar (East) Assembly constituency which was held by his wife when she was in BJP, and it may be hoping to utilise him in launching broadsides against the Badals in election rallies across the state, yet Sidhu’s image stands dented. His inability to forge a deal with the AAP and Congress in his initial attempts, his announcement of an independent political front and then his backtracking from his promise to launch that front before the elections has caused him some loss of image.
There is little doubt that Sidhu will still remain effective when he delivers his sharp barbs against the Badals and the Akalis and the Congress will make full use of his theatrics across the state, but whether he will be a game changer less than 20 days ahead of elections is a tough call. As one veteran Congressman put it, having Sidhu in the Congress camp is better than having him in a rival camp. His rocky relationship with Capt Amarinder is unlikely to stabilise as just on the day he was inducted into the party, the former Punjab Chief Minister made it clear that he was just another MLA contestant from Amritsar (East). The battle has just begun.