Navjot Singh Sidhu quits RS: Closeness with Badals cost BJP the Punjab ticket

Two-and-half months after he was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the Narendra Modi government, Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday resigned from, what some may say, a highly coveted position of an MP. Adding insult to injury, Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur Singh, too resigned from the official post she held in Punjab.

A resignation of this kind, from a nominated member, in such short span is unprecedented and would reflect badly on BJP leadership's judgment.

This, however, is not the first time that Sidhu has tendered his resignation from the Parliament — he quit from Lok Sabha in December 2006 when he was convicted in an 18-year-old road rage case. Again in July 2009, it was reported that Sidhu quit Parliament due to a few developments in the Punjab BJP unit. However, he had sent his resignation letter to the party leadership and not to the Speaker of Lok Sabha.

His resignation was not accepted and he continued to be in the party and in the Parliament as an MP. His resignation from 2006 was soon forgotten because he was soon returned to Parliament after being re-elected from Amritsar.

Navjot Singh Sidhu. Reuters

Navjot Singh Sidhu. Reuters

But this time around, things will be different since the move comes ahead of Punjab Assembly elections. The resignation from Rajya Sabha could well be followed up with a resignation from the party. Technically, as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, he is not a BJP member.

Sidhu perhaps thought to be on the right of perceived public morality and quit from the post offered by the BJP before he makes his next move  — join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and lead its campaign in Punjab, with or without officially being named as its chief ministerial candidate. Sidhu's surprise resignation is undoubtedly a huge setback for the BJP and could prove to be a booster for the AAP.

The AAP had lately courted so many controversies simply because the party leaders, who para trooped from Delhi, didn't know the social and cultural practices of the state and weren't able to relate to their sensitivities. That was one of the reasons why Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal performed a sewa at the Golden temple to "atone" for mistakes committed by the party, albeit in most dramatic fashion, cleaning already cleaned plates.

It's interesting that within minutes of Sidhu's resignation, AAP Punjab convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur jumped the gun and virtually announced Sidhu's AAP turn:

The AAP had gained some ground in Punjab but it desperately needed a Sikh as a party face to take on the Akali-BJP combine in the state. The party's best known face in the state so far is the stand-up comedian, Bhagwant Mann who is taken to be a lightweight compared to the might of the Badals and Congress' Amarinder Singh. Sidhu, despite his humorous streak, is taken seriously as a politician and within whom the people of Punjab have placed their faith.

But what mattered most to the AAP in luring Sidhu to his side is him being the most credible public face who has ability and appetite to take on the ruling Badal family, who he is vehemently against. Sidhu's grouse against the BJP was that the party was too heavily influenced by Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal. In fact, that was one of the reasons why he developed strained relationship with his onetime mentor Arun Jaitley.

In the run up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, while he "happily" stepped out of Amritsar seat and electoral politics but chose not to campaign for Jaitley just because Badal family was managing Jaitley's campaign. Sidhu's fight against Badal family has been relentless though it had not so much been in the public space. But their mutual dislike is no secret in Punjab and outside.

During the recent Cabinet reshuffle in the Narendra Modi government, many thought that a turbaned Sikh would be inducted in the government. Sidhu, however, was not considered because he was recently nominated to Rajya Sabha and the party also suspected his loyalty. SS Ahluwalia with his encyclopedic knowledge of parliamentary norms and ability to connect with leaders across party lines and conceive strategy was taken to be a better choice. Sidhu, apparently, didn't take that kindly.

Sidhu could prove to be the big catch that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP had been looking for in Punjab. And it is also time for the BJP to reflect on not-so-sudden-turn-of-events.

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Updated Date: Jul 18, 2016 18:07:58 IST

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