New Delhi: Irony has different shades and names, and today, it is named Navjot Singh Sidhu. Eight months ago, Sidhu was the toast of Punjab. After months of plotting and backroom plays, he had managed to finally to ensure the unceremonious ouster of then Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh from the post, with many betting that Sidhu would be the next chief minister. Eight months later, Sidhu is headed to jail.
After the exit of Capt Amarinder, Sidhu, then Punjab Pradesh Congress chief, was in for a rude shock. When it was time for the Congress MLAs to pick the next chief minister, Sidhu received negligible support, showing how few real friends he had among the Congress leadership. Eventually, Charanjit Singh Channi was appointed the chief minister, while Sidhu went into a sulk.
During the campaign, Sidhu tried, unsuccessfully, as it soon became clear, to project himself as the only voice against the corrupt, drug-peddlers, anti-Punjab forces. In doing so, he even forgot that he was the Congress state unit chief.
The Punjab election results showed Sidhu his place. He was left licking his wounds, finishing a poor second in his own Assembly seat, with the only saving grace being that his bête noire and the man he openly accused of being responsible for much of what was wrong in Punjab – Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leader Bikram Singh Majithia – came third. Majithia, a former minister, was fielded by SAD from Amritsar (East) to take on Sidhu.
Today, the Supreme Court revisited its 2018 judgment by which it had spared Sidhu a jail term for “voluntarily causing hurt” to a 65-year-old Patiala resident, and imposed a fine of Rs 1000 on him. The apex court decided to amend his punishment by ordering him to undergo one-year jail term.
The judgment couldn’t have come at a worse time for the motormouth cricketer-turned-commentator-turned-comedian-turned-politician, who has already lost the post of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief after the drubbing that the party received at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the recently-held Assembly elections.
While he still has the option of filing a review petition against today’s judgment, the chances of that succeeding are almost zero. He will most certainly have to spend almost a year in jail – minus the time, if any, already spent in jail as well as the usual reduction allowed under the Punjab jails manual.
With the taint of a year in jail, Sidhu may find it difficult to bounce back once he completes his sentence. But, the bigger ignominy for him is this: he might well be lodged in the same jail where Majithia is currently lodged, awaiting a decision on his bail in the drugs smuggling case.
While the one-year jail term means that Sidhu won’t attract penal provision of Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which provides for disqualification from contesting elections for a six-year period in case a politician is sentenced to a prison term of two or more years, the taint of having spent time in jail is something that Sidhu will find it difficult to live down.