Any batsman who has played even the rudimentary form of the game will tell you that timing is of essence during batting. It is often the only difference between success and failure. As in cricket, timing is important in politics too. As a batsman, Navjot Singh Sidhu was blessed with impeccable timing, especially when he stepped out of the crease against slow bowlers. Ask Shane Warne.
But that touch seems to have deserted him in politics. His relinquishing the Rajya Sabha post and giving BJP a rude jolt was a masterstroke of a political statement. But his conduct since seems to suggest that having danced out of the pitch expecting a juicy half-volley, his ambitious stroke may have wildly missed its mark.
For a garrulous man forever uncomfortable with silence, the BJP leader remained unusually quiet since resigning on 18 July from the Rajya Sabha till Monday when he appeared at a news conference. There was expectation that Sidhu will finally clear the air on whether he is joining the Aam Admi Party.
But he did not.
True to his distinctive style, he waxed lyrical, dropped Sidhuisms by the ton and managed to say a lot of things without really saying anything. Sidhu repeated that he was unhappy with the BJP's top leadership. But that has been clear ever since he issued a cryptic note accompanying his resignation on the first day of the Monsoon Session.
"At the behest of the honourable PM, I had accepted the Rajya Sabha nomination for the welfare of Punjab. With the closure of every window leading to Punjab the purpose stands defeated. It is now a mere burden. I prefer not to carry it," he had said on that occasion.
His harping on Monday on Punjab's sub-nationalist pride was a reiteration of the earlier position and also a statement of intent to put himself as Punjab's biggest leader.
"I resigned from Rajya Sabha because I was told to not turn towards Punjab and stay away from Punjab... Why should I stay away from Punjab and on whose wishes," held Sidhu, breaking his week-long silence.
"Rashtra dharma (duty towards the nation) is the most superior. How could I ignore my roots and betray my homeland? Should I stay away from Punjab just to cater to personal interests of some people?" he posed.
The former India opener-turned-commentator said no party was "above or bigger than Punjab" and added that he "cannot betray people of Amritsar who have given him so much affection and respect."
"When the going gets tough, it is Sidhu Sidhu...but now they say don't look at Punjab....Have I done anything wrong? No party in the world is bigger than Punjab. I am willing to accept the consequences," he declared.
Through the long-winded news conference he remain conspicuously silent on the AAP question. Is he quitting the party? Is he joining the AAP? If so, when? Will he become AAP's chief ministerial candidate? If not, will he restrict himself to campaigning for AAP as has been speculated in some quarters?
Sidhu refused to answer even one of these questions. He limited himself to only attacking the BJP and harping exclusively on how his heart solely beats for Punjab. In doing so, the BJP leader was merely using the media to set the negotiating terms for AAP.
A known Shiromani Akali Dal baiter who had on countless occasions urged the state unit to junk the SAD tie-up and go it alone in Punjab, Sidhu's avenues of political movement are limited. He has burnt his bridges with the Badals and the manner of his resignation wouldn't even remotely please the BJP bosses. On Monday too, his displeasure at being asked in 2014 to vacate the Amritsar seat for Arun Jaitley, who was defeated by Captain Amarinder Singh, was clear. AAP remains his only option, a point which was clarified recently even by his wife, BJP MLA Navjot Kaur.
If that is the case, why remain silent for so long and why break the silence only to hold an ostentatious news conference which in reality was a message-sending ploy to AAP? What was the need for such a machination?
It seems obvious that negotiations with the AAP has reached such a dead end that Sidhu is growing increasingly frustrated at having to wait. It's not unusual with his character. He hated to give a maiden over to bowlers. It is possible that Arvind Kejriwal is not ready to commit on making him the chief ministerial candidate yet.
Make no mistake, AAP would love to have him. It had won 4 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the state, polling 24% of the vote share, which meant shaving off 8% of SAD and a little over 7% of Congress’ vote share from the 2012 Assembly polls. Sidhu's joining would bring star power in a party which has only Kejriwal's charisma to bank upon. Being a Jat Sikh leader, he will also expand AAP's base to a larger section of the society.
But Sidhu's greatest strengths are also his perceived weakness when it comes to joining a one-man show like Aam Admi Party. Sidhu has a swagger. He is a towering personality, can play the camera, and commands undivided attention. He won't be subservient to anyone. A party like AAP can only afford one such personality and in Kejriwal, that spot is taken.
Consider the AAP supremo's recent words on this controversy: “He has resigned from Rajya Sabha seat. I admire his courage. He is a good man. I think all good people should resign from the BJP. There is nothing else right now. He hasn’t joined the party (AAP) yet. However, if anybody who wants to join the AAP, they have to become an aam aadmi first. It is premature right now. Nothing has been decided,” Kejriwal told Livemint on the sidelines of a book launch in the national capital on Tuesday.
It seems plausible that that where's it's stuck right now. If it were cricket, Sherry would have stepped out and deposited the cherry in the stands. In politics, he must wait.