Punjab minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu
Navjot Singh Sidhu gestures during an election rally (File) Image Credit: PTI

In a country where comedy is almost farcical, there was a show on television that was considered a trailblazer when it first started. It was the closest we came to a funny joke or two although the laughter often sounded forced.

The ‘Kapil Sharma Show’ also had a chief guest who sat on a tasteless large throne and cackled senselessly so loudly that it was obvious to all, he loved hearing his own voice.

So, he told the host of the show to marry quickly before he lost his ‘reproductive age’ and then when the nation’s emotions were strung tight after the Pulwama attack in 2019, gave his own interpretations when no one had asked. That was the last straw for a show that realised he wasn’t funny after all, and they sacked him.

But somewhere along the way, the reel showman started imagining a bigger throne for himself and in a comedy of errors, those who (still) matter heard Navjot Singh Sidhu’s voice.

Till the fat lady sings

Some would call the former cricketer turned politician a maverick, but his track record shows he is nothing more than a political chameleon who dumped Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Congress while flirting with Kejriwal’s AAP.

The fact that Sidhu and Kejriwal’s political ambitions in Punjab clash, have kept this road rocky but indications are that with Sidhu nothing is over till the fat lady sings.

This though is not the first time Sidhu has taken on a ‘captain’, he was a flamboyant opening batsman till he left the England tour midway in a huff in 1996. He reportedly wasn’t happy with skipper Azharuddin and so, one fine day without telling anyone, packed his bags and left.

It is a trait, political pundits in Punjab can still vouch for as can the Punjab Congress — he resigned from the cabinet in 2019 and virtually disappeared. During that cabinet stint, he was offered the power portfolio by the Chief Minister, if his intentions were to really serve the state he would have accepted.

Sidhu refused and ironically now questions — almost daily — the power crisis in the state on social media.

Man of the match, no more

This time though, Sidhu seems adamant to play out the full match against Captain Amarinder Singh, only his timing with the bat was better than his mistimed hook in politics. Elections in Punjab are less than a year away and though the Congress in the state has been derailed, there are no indications that Sidhu will still be the man of the match.

The parachuting image of turning up at the last moment to queer the pitch has been counterproductive for the dissident’s own goals. Sidhu has managed to unite the Chief Minister’s detractors but, against himself, the rebels now have a bigger problem — they fear that the former cricketer will get an out of turn promotion.

Talk of the Gandhi siblings pacifying Sidhu with the post of Punjab Congress Chief may not go down well with the Hindu voter either, with the top two posts in Punjab being held by Jat Sikh leaders. In any case the Chief Minister so far has been adamant, he will not accept this appeasement.

Sidhu’s photos with Rahul and Priyanka though seem to have given more power to a man who has very little locus standi in the state. But then often, politics is only about sound, fury and optics. The Gandhi siblings snubbed the veteran elected Congress Chief Minister by not giving him an audience when he was in Delhi last, and it is only now that Sonia Gandhi has called Captain for a meeting.

With Congress ruling in just three states in the country, the brother-sister duo have given the impeccably dressed politician, with his wardrobe of matching scarves, a foot in. If they give another inch, there is possibility of a revolt within the state unit of the party.

Blowin' in the wind

It is an open secret of the not so grand old party that state leaders with a tall stature have always been cut down to size. At the moment, it doesn’t get bigger than the 79- year-old Amarinder Singh.

The Chief Minister though cannot run away from accusations that he is not easily accessible nor was his move to give government jobs to two sons of MLAs from the rebel group taken at face value.

Sidhu, meanwhile, continues to blow where the wind goes. As the state reels under an unprecedented power crisis caused by the intense heatwave, easing of lockdown and crop demand - his latest pledge is to give 300 units of free electricity - copy pasting the AAP promise- but first the cricketer turned politician had to pay his own outstanding bills.

Multiple reports said he owed an amount of more than 8.67 lakhs for 8 months of electricity at his Amritsar home. Sidhu who is trigger happy with his tweets, did not responded to these allegations.

Instead, he continues to target Amarinder Singh for delay in justice over the Bargari sacrilege case, where religious texts were burnt leading to firing against protesters. The Congress infighting has also galvanised the Akali Dal that was on the back foot during the farmers, protest.

Sidhu loves attention. His so-called undecipherable quotes in the commentary box — where also he is now persona non grata — and the television show are a testament to that. The CM’s chair would give him the perfect take-off to do some more shayari but people of Punjab who have seen plenty are likely to differentiate the rhetoric from intent.

The ‘High Command’ in Delhi has unfathomably let the Punjab crisis fester for the last two months and cannot look away from the responsibility of allowing a stable state to disintegrate.

There is still no clarity and with all the stakeholders unhappy, a less than convincing performance in the forthcoming elections will be on the leadership.