“He can go to any extreme to maintain a relationship and the very next moment cut himself off at slightest provocation. Temperamental and sort of maverick," sums up a Punjab-based journalist who tracked him for years, before the cricketer-turned-politician just shut himself off.
That perhaps describes the 57-year old, who now takes over reins of Punjab Congress which has been bursting at the seams with dissensions in the last few months. Barely four years into joining the Congress party, Navjot Singh Sidhu now is in command of the State unit marking a generational shift in Congress’s State politics which has so far seen Captain Amarinder Singh firmly entrenched.
‘Master of All Trades, Jack of None’, the Twitter bio of the former cabinet minister perhaps indicative of his political ambitions and the knack to fight among adverse situations. Tagged as the ‘outsider’, he joined the Congress party in 2017 after having dumped the BJP following his fall out with senior BJP leader, Arun Jaitley.
From having praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to vilifying him, from glorifying Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to virtually ripping him off on social media, Sidhu has been unsparing when it came to nurturing his political interests.
Known for what has been termed as ‘Sidhuisms’, his one-liners have been a hit not only in cricket, politics, entertainment but whichever party he chose to contest from. His oratorical flair is something every party decided to use to its advantage.
After a decade-long stint in the BJP which he said was because of his respect for former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his first act of revolt came in 2014 when he was denied a ticket from Amritsar and former finance minister Arun Jaitley chose to contest instead. Though as a reconciliatory action, BJP nominated him to the Rajya Sabha. But he soon resigned.
And much like his swashbuckling batting, which earned him the sobriquet ‘Sixer Sidhu’, people were waiting for his next political shot in Punjab. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tried to court him but failed to clinch a deal. Sidhu later floated the Awaz-e-Punjab outfit without much political success.
Realising that it needed more than just himself with a couple of years for the Assembly elections in Punjab due in 2017, Sidhu met with Priyanka Gandhi and got inducted in the Congress, calling himself a born Congressman. His father had worked with Jawaharlal Nehru and even Mehtab Kaur, mother of Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.
Though he hails from an influential Jat Sikh family but has picked up elements from the Hindu religion as well. He believes in the power of Lord Shiva. Hence, right at the centre of his house in Amritsar, is a large Shivling carved out of a stone gifted to him by a friend from Iran. He is a frequent visitor to temples. Rings in his hand and the religious threads cannot be missed as he consults several religious preachers of Hinduism.
As someone who always believed in having the last laugh, he did join the Punjab cabinet in 2017 and was later divested of his powers and allotted another portfolio. Not wanting to accept what was given to him, Sidhu decided to go full throttle against his government taking the Punjab CM head on in several issues till he knocked the doors of the high command and ensured the position of the PPCC chief, a post he had been gunning for.