Why AAP won't let Navjot Singh Sidhu ruin Arvind Kejriwal's Punjab dreams

Navjot Singh Sidhu's total silence on what till Monday morning was considered to be most obvious, his joining the Aam Admi Party surprised all except the two parties concerned -- his parent party, the BJP and the party where he was believed to be landing next, the AAP.

Navjot Singh Sidhu. PTI

Navjot Singh Sidhu. PTI

In any case, if an announcement on him joining AAP and be its chief ministerial candidate in Punjab had to be made, it wouldn't have been Sidhu's solo presser on the gates of Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi but it would have been held by Arvind Kejriwal and other senior party leaders along with cricketer turned politician cum commentator cum humorist. But such was the hype around Sidhu's resignation from Rajya Sabha within three months of his nomination, a never before act in contemporary Indian political history, nobody cared for such details.

The initial buoyancy in AAP, which was seen all across after Sidhu's surprise resignation from Rajya Sabha, has now died down. The party leaders are no longer sounding too hopeful, least of all enthusiastic about his possibility of joining AAP. Privately, they even have few things to say against him.

Since the time Sidhu held his media briefing, no AAP leader has spoken eloquently about him. Their statements on the subject have at best been generic and restrained -- everyone is welcome to join, whether Sidhu or anyone else with good intentions. Even Arvind Kejriwal's response yesterday was directed against the BJP-SAD rather than hinting anything about any indication on possibility of the former cricketer joining his party. He tweeted "Sidhu wud hv spoken against drugs, if he went to Punjab. BJP prevented him. Who was BJP trying to protect? Shocking"

Contrast that with the 18 July tweet, when minutes after news break of Sidhu's putting in papers as an MP, senior AAP leaders were jumping over each other to hail him as an honest conscientious leader and the future spark of their party.

Sources told Firstpost that there are far too many complications about Sidhu joining the AAP and be the party's chief ministerial candidate.

First, Sidhu over the years has gained unmatched flamboyance and celebrity status, as a political campaigner, commentator, TV presenter, humorist, a master on Hindi couplets, phrases, idioms and so on. He has a following of his own. None in AAP has that kind of celebrity status and also a mass appeal than Kejriwal himself.

Second, the unfolding events since 18 July or Sidhu's earlier track record (vowing not to go to Patiala, keeping away from politics on denial of ticket from Amritsar, rejecting alternate constituency offers for 2014 parliamentary polls) have proved that he is strong headed, has an independent mind and is guided by his heart on issues of critical concern. In AAP, Kejriwal's word is law and no one else matters. Remember what happened to those who had an independent mind, the likes of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. AAP can't take the same risk. Those were different times and the involved persons, who though were known and articulate but were neither celebrities nor had a following of their own.

Third, Sidhu wouldn't accept anything less than him being projected as the chief ministerial candidate in the coming Punjab election. That's where the clash of ideas and minds lay. It is no secret that most leaders in AAP believe that the party would win Punjab and Kejriwal would relinquish Delhi chief minister's post and elevate his deputy Manish Sisodia to the top post. Of course, he would himself move to take up the chief ministerial post in Punjab, a full-fledged state in a sensitive border area. AAp believes that this (Kejriwal as Punjab CM) would give him the right fillip to claim a pan-India appeal and take on Narendra Modi in due course. The likes of Nitish Kumar would then be no match for him.

Kejriwal can't cede that ground to Sidhu. In a hypothetical situation of AAP victory with Sidhu as chief ministerial candidate the credit would go to the former MP and not to Kejriwal. This would defeat the whole purpose. Also, as chief minister, if at all, Sidhu wouldn't beholden to Kejriwal and act according to his own heart and mind than on Kejriwal's diktat.

Vinod Shama writes in The Hindustan Times that "Navjot Sidhu and Arvind Kejriwal aren’t exactly made for each other, primarily because they are made like each other! They’re celebrities. Are strong headed, love being in the limelight they’d not share. Or do so grudgingly. If they decide to work together, they’d need to have their birth-charts matched."

Fourth, there are already too many chief ministerial candidates in AAP. Besides Kejriwal as the most obvious chief ministerial prospect in Punjab, there are some others who are nurturing this dream. AAP's Sucha Singh Chhotepur thinks that he is the rightful claimant for the top post in the border state. Bhagwant Mann and HS Phulka have their own ambitions. Their supporters see them as future CMs.

Soon after the initial euphoria that Sidhu might join the party, the former cricketer has suddenly turned an "outsider" for AAP triggering an outsider versus insider debate.

Incidentally, AAP and BJP leaders have a rare unanimity of thoughts on Sidhu -- that he was not treated badly by the BJP and yet he left it.

His cricketing career has been full of highs and lows, from a stroke less wonder to a palm grove hitter to Navjot Sixer Sidhu. But politics is no gentleman's game. It is a ruthless pursuit. For now he is evoking Punjab sub-nationalist pride and says "You will find Sidhu standing wherever Punjab interests are.".

It's time to remind him of one of his own quotable earthly quotes: "Experience is like a comb that life gives you when you are bald....Nobody travels on the road to success without a puncture or two."

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Updated Date: Jul 26, 2016 23:29:30 IST

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