Chandigarh, Jan 17: With barely 20 days to go for the Punjab Assembly elections 2017, cricketer-turned-politician, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the Congress on Monday has his task cut out. While with his funny one-liners, he may be able to pull in the crowds, the question is whether he can convert that to votes.
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For Sidhu and the Congress there is a lot at stake in these elections. In the five poll- bound states, the Congress sees a realistic chance in Punjab only. For Sidhu who has been back and forth on his decisions, these elections are crucial. Promised an early rise in the hierarchy in the Congress, Sidhu is likely to be offered the deputy chief minister's post if the party wins the polls.
The big question is whether voters sees Sidhu as a hope. Since he quit the BJP, he has been back and forth on several decisions. He was first in talks with the Aam Admi Party, but nothing materialised out of it. He then launched the Awaz-e-Punjab, but he backtracked on launching the political front.
Sidhu also took time before he made the announcement to join the Congress and this may have dented his image considerably.
Can Sidhu change the game in the Punjab elections?
Political observers say that Sidhu no doubt is a factor in the Punjab assembly elections. However, his lack of decision making before he joined the Congress just 20 days before the elections may have led to his image taking a beating. Many in Punjab do not view him as a decisive leader and this could hurt his prospects, observers point out.
To add to Sidhu's worries are the videos from the past that his opponents have kept ready. On Monday, he had termed his joining the Congress as the real Ghar Wapsi (home coming). However, his opponents have already started circulating videos in which he is mocking both the Congress and the AAP.
Another factor is his rocky relationship with Captain Amarinder Singh, the de-facto chief ministerial candidate of the Congress. Singh has already announced that this would be his last election and he would be battling the election hard. The fact is that the relationship between Singh and Sidhu has never been smooth.
Singh has referred to Sidhu in the past as a clown and comedian. Sidhu on the other hand has hit out at Singh, while stating that he and Parkash Singh Badal are one side of a coin.
However, both Singh and Sidhu have toned down the rhetoric after Rahul Gandhi stepped in. It was the Congress vice president who was insistent on Sidhu joining the Congress. Following, Singh changed track and called Sidhu a Congress pedigree.
Moreover, Sidhu has been promised an early rise in the Congress hierarchy in Punjab. Would this be a factor among the other senior leaders in the party? The next 20 days would be crucial for both Sidhu and the Congress party.