Navjot Singh Sidhu's desire to be Punjab's foremost leader behind RS exit

Exactly a week after he dropped his resignation bomb from Rajya Sabha, Navjot Singh Sidhu chose to come out in public to play the victim and the hero, as also to narrate his side of the story, the reasons for his drastic action and the road ahead. He ducked response on the most obvious question that has been playing on everyone's mind — whether he was joining the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and be its chief ministerial candidate in Punjab.

While Sidhu kept mum on his future plans and AAP, the former-cricketer-turned-politician's strong emotional outpourings, with his famed ability to marshal out right sounding Hindi couplets, to give enough indications that his oratorical spark might prove to be too much of headache to his erstwhile party, the BJP and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in coming Punjab elections.

Sidhu raised Punjab's sub-nationalism pride issue and established his emotional connect with people of the state who will matter to him in his future course of action. He revealed that when he was made a Rajya Sabha MP he was told that he will have to keep away from Punjab and that was too much of a burden on his conscience to carry. He thus resigned.

In his first official public reaction after resignation, Sidhu's performance was excellent. With his voice choking, due to "emotional overload",  he began by saying, "The question is why did Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned from Rajya Sabha? That was because he was told that you will not turn towards Punjab and keep away from the state. The biggest thing in one’s life is rashtra dharma and how could Siddhu leave his dharma? Punjab has given me everything and I have been elected four times from Amritsar… Some body must tell the reasons why should I not turn to my homeland …what crime have I committed?"

"Even birds fly to return to their nest in the evening. No party and no interest in the world is bigger than Punjab. Shama mehfil me Punjab ki jalti rahegi, Sidhu jaise parwane aate rahenge," he said.

Though he didn’t name anyone from the BJP, his references were clearly directed against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, his onetime mentor to be his current tormentor. Mark his words:

"Even when Modi wave was there in 2014, adversary sunk (Jaitley in Amritsar) and made Sidhu sink too."

Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses media on why he quit Rajya Sabha. Image courtesy: @ANI_news

Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses media on why he quit Rajya Sabha. Image courtesy: @ANI_news

Back then though, Sidhu had shown no hesitation in public when he said that he was relinquishing Amritsar seat for Jaitley. He had, however, refused to campaign for him because Badal family was managing Jaitley's campaign.

Today, he gave a different take though and said that he was offered the Kurukshetra or the South Delhi constituency to contest but since he always wanted to serve Amritsar and Punjab and could not betray or give any valid reason why he was leaving Amritsar for Kurushetra or South Delhi, he chose to stay away from politics itself. "Arey,  kasur to batao... dekhen ki sitam ki intahan kya hai…”

He also narrated how he abided by the command of a “senior sir” in 2006 after he resigned from Lok Sabha to surrender in a 18-year-old road rage case and went to jail. Sidhu further added that he came back to fight elections again after he was acquitted. Sidhu also dropped Atal Bihari Vajpayee's name to remind the BJP that was their party’s tallest leader who had drafted him from Amritsar at a short notice of less than three weeks.

Sidhu’s brief media interaction, where no questions were taken, was angled at singular purpose: evoke a sub-nationalist pride for Punjab and position himself to be its foremost champion – “You will find Sidhu standing wherever Punjab interests are”.

Two questions however, remain unanswered – first, why he chose to resign three months after he was given a Rajya Sabha nomination by the BJP and was asked to stay away from Punjab; and second, why has he not indicated anything on possibility of his joining the AAP, or the Congress, or will he start his own political party?

As to why he chose to accept Rajya Sabha nomination at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and resign three months thereafter, there could be two possible situations.

First, since Sidhu’s resignation came in the aftermath of Cabinet reshuffle-cum-expansion, there were suggestions that he was promised a ministerial berth and a last minute veto from Akali Dal stalled his chances. However, saying that Modi is abiding by the Akali diktat in respect to Sidhu is too much of a simplistic explanation.

PM Modi didn't take Shiv Sena's concern into account when he appointed Suresh Prabhu the Railway Minister. There was certainly some talk that a turned-Sikh would be taken into the Union ministry and ultimately Modi chose SS Ahluwalia over Sidhu.

Secondly, Sidhu wanted to make a maximum impact when he left BJP. He would not have made so much noise and news if he was nominated for Rajya Sabha three months ago. If he were not a Rajya Sabha MP, he wouldn't have anything to resign from. If that was his strategy, he implemented it to the perfection and caused embarrassment to the BJP.

As for him joining the AAP is concerned, there are indications that after initial meeting of mind between Arvind Kejriwal and Sidhu there has been no meeting of heart. Sidhu by his act and utterances has made it clear that he has a mind of his own and he is dictated by his heart. That’s something with which Kejriwal and AAP is not very comfortable with.

How Sidhu may like to play after being projected as the chief ministerial candidate by the AAP is within realm of speculation. The final word on the subject, however, has yet not been spoken. The negotiations are on and both sides are dealing with each other with certain caution.

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Updated Date: Jul 25, 2016 15:15 PM

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