Navjyot Singh Sidhu’s politics is destined to end the way his cricket did —out hit wicket
What do you call unbridled aspiration on skates? Navjyot Singh Sidhu. What do you call enlarged personality matched with needles? Navjyot Singh Sidhu. What do you call a lawmaker, who like the famous washer man’s pet, is neither of the Congress nor of the BJP and surely not of the AAP? Navjyot Singh Sidhu. What do you call a man who crosses a scaffold just to consume it? Navjyot Singh Sidhu.
What do you call a person who always ends up fighting his captain? Now, this is getting predictable. But, in case you got it right — ‘thoko taali’ (clap now) for that — you would by now know what exactly is wrong with Sidhu and his politics. Unfortunately for himself, he has become a victim of his own ambition, hubris and the propensity to run to the ‘kop bhavan’(sulking chamber) at the slightest provocation.
In cricket, Sidhu played against an Opposition. In politics, Sidhu has become his own Opposition. So, Sidhu bats, Sidhu bowls, Sidhu gets caught. Sidhu, incidentally, is also the pitch. One of his favourite riffs is that pitches are like wives, you never know which way they will turn. But, in Sidhu’s case, we know which way he will turn — against himself.
For more than four weeks, Sidhu, like Kaikeyi in the Ramayana, was in the ‘kop bhavan‘. Since he was removed from the ministry of local bodies and given charge of the power ministry, Sidhu has not been seen, except for a rare sighting in Vaishno Devi. Now he has tweeted his resignation to Rahul Gandhi; another resigned!
Sulking, as the Ramayana reminds you, befits only a queen whose husband is ready to go to any length to appease her. For a common man, it ends up being a tragi-comic display of tantrums that nobody is willing to notice, especially if it becomes part of a pattern. By not taking charge of the power ministry, Sidhu has ended up portraying himself as a spoilt kid who didn’t get his favourite seat in the class. ‘Vakhra swag‘ and ‘nakhra‘ (distinct swagger and tantrums) sound cute only in Punjabi songs. In politics, where nobody gives a you-know-what, they become fatal flaws.
The problem with Sidhu is that he’s turned into a professional rebel with a cause — his own. His history shows that every time his ambition is thwarted, his ego is hurt, his rage is roused, Sidhu goes on the rampage. Like a batsman tempted by a flighted ball, Sidhu is a compulsive hitter.
Afterward, when Sidhu understood that the AAP was on the climb in Punjab, he played with Arvind Kejriwal for some time. In any case, he turned into Kejriwal’s harsh commentator after the AAP would not promise him the main clergyman’s post. Presently, Sidhu and his desire have kept running into Captain Amarinder Singh.
It is clear that Sidhu doesn’t accept Captain’s authority. He used to defy him with the consistency of a batsman with a high strike rate. So, when Captain argued against going to Pakistan, Sidhu rushed to Imran Khan’s inauguration. When Captain advocated prudence, he gave ‘jhappis’ (hugs) to Pakistani generals. In short, Sidhu is his own captain in Punjab.
Sidhu should know that Captain is a leader with a huge political base in Punjab. When he sneezes, as he did before the Punjab elections when the Congress was trying out a different set of leaders, the party high command catches a cold. There is absolutely no chance in hell that Congress will antagonize the Captain. His bite, unlike Sidhu’s bark, will bite the Congress hard. If he has the political smarts, Sidhu would know he has to bide his time. He should understand that Congress can’t divorce Captain just because his impatience has coupled with his ambition.
Sidhu is a well-read man. He can rattle of isms, couplets, literary lines and one-liners with a rare flourish. But, what good is knowledge if it doesn’t lead to wisdom? And what’s the value of experience if a man doesn’t learn from his own mistakes?
He is like a tower who gets hit by his own thunder. As a cricketer, Sidhu walked out of the team mid-way through its 1996 tour of England. “Le phad (Punjabi for ‘keep this, I quit’),” he reportedly told his captain Mohammad Azharuddin. Sidhu, as former BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele was to write later, was upset because of frequent use of cuss words by Azhar. The Hyderabadi, Sidhu reportedly complained, would respond to his greetings with the distasteful “maa ke….” Tired of the expletives, Sidhu quit.
But, whom did he end up harming? Azhar went on to captain India for a few more years. But, Sidhu’s career never recovered from that rash decision. A wise man in his place would have either laughed off Azhar’s reported slurs — Mohinder Amarnath was to later explain to him that it was part of the typical cricketing culture, an insight underlined by gems used by Virat Kohli these days — or responded with an earful in Punjabi, a language blessed with some imaginative cuss words. But, Sidhu cursed his own career.
Similarly, soon after the 1987 world cup, where he was India’s star batsman because of the ability to hit sixes on demand, he got into an impulsive argument with a man who later died in hospital. For three decades, for that one moment of madness, Sidhu had to fight charges of culpable homicide.
Once is an accident, two coincidence, but thrice is just a pattern that needs serious attention and introspection, if not professional advice. If Sidhu is wise enough, believes in destiny, he should address the issues that have pulled him back. Otherwise, his politics is destined to end the way his cricket did — out hit wicket. Then he wouldn’t have to prompt us to “thoko taali”. It would be a challenge not to laugh at his tragic denouement.
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