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Majithia vs Sidhu: SAD’s Attempt To End Navjot’s Innings

In deciding to pit Majithia against Sidhu, the Akalis may have gone for the jugular since they have been badly wanting to finish Sidhu, who, for long, has remained a thorn in the side of the Badal family, to which Majithia is also related.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and SAD (Badal) leader Bikram Singh Majithia.

New Delhi: The decision of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) to field “Majhe Da Jarnail” (Majha’s General) – an in-house name for former minister Bikram Singh Majithia – to take on Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu in the Amritsar-East Assembly constituency has the potential to deal a severe blow to the political future of Sidhu, if not completely annihilate it.

While Majithia will also contest from his turf of Majitha, a seat he is expected to win with ease, Sidhu will need to win from the only seat he is contesting from if he wants to survive and prosper in state politics. It may not be wrong to suggest that it is a do-or-die battle for the cricketer-turned-politician.

In deciding to pit Majithia against Sidhu, the Akalis may have gone for the jugular since they have been badly wanting to finish Sidhu, who, for long, has remained a thorn in the side of the Badal family, to which Majithia is also related – his elder sister Harsimrat Kaur Badal is married to SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and she is also the sitting MP from Bathinda.

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Akalis first smelt trouble after Sidhu’s second consecutive win in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. Sidhu was being seen by the Akalis as someone who could create a space for himself and subsequently for the right-wing BJP, and being a Jat Sikh leader, Sidhu would easily find acceptance among the masses. That he was a former cricketer, commentator, and orator who appealed to the public, added to his charisma.

And then something transpired between Akalis and the top BJP leadership. Sidhu said so himself, “They wanted me to fight the next elections from Karnal, and the brief was I shouldn’t be seen in Punjab. This is what Badals wanted.”

Subsequently, Sidhu resigned from the BJP and joined Congress in 2017.

Now, Sidhu, in what could turn out to be the toughest and most interesting battle in Punjab, will take on Majithia. After Congress announced names of candidates on 109 seats out of 117 seats and it became apparent that Sidhu would not contest from two seats, Akalis dropped the bombshell.

Majithia supporter advocate Asrhdeep Singh Kler says, “We dared him (Sidhu) to fight from Majitha. He didn’t respond. Therefore, Majithia himself has walked into Sidhu’s den. And Sidhu is sure to lose.”

Sidhu’s media advisor Surinder Dalla has questions for Majithia. “Akalis say he is Majhe Da Jarnail. If he really is one, why is Majithia not fighting from one seat like Sidhu? What is he afraid of?”

To this, Kler responds, “Mr Majithia cannot be ungrateful to people of the constituency he has been representing. Which is why he is fighting from two constituencies.”

Does Amritsar-East now look like an uphill task for Sidhu?

The reasons are simple. Sidhu has ruffled quite a few feathers across the political spectrum of Punjab – the Badals, BJP leaders of Punjab and many in the Congress are against him. He is responsible for bringing Capt Amarinder Singh down as Chief Minister and his eventual exit from the party. Then he was against making Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni Deputy Chief Ministers when the new cabinet was sworn-in.

So essentially, Sidhu’s fight is not just against Majithia in Amritsar-East. “It is against Majithia, Badals, Capt Amarinder Singh, and many in the Congress who want to see him lose,” says Prof Mohammad Khalid and adds, “They want to contain him in his constituency so that he can’t campaign across the state.” And yes, if Sidhu loses it may not bring his political career to an end, but it will bring him political humiliation.

But Dalla puts it differently, ”No one can defeat Sidhu in Amritsar-East. Even the BJP cadres here vote for Navjot Singh Sidhu, his presence here is strong enough.” However, experts say, Majithia is quite a heavyweight in the Majha area. Arun Jaitley who was defeated by Capt Amarinder Singh from Amritsar, was at one point of time ahead in the battle by a margin of close to 45,000 votes from Majithia’s constituency. So if there is anyone who can beat Sidhu on his own turf it is Majithia.

Inderbir Bolaria, the Amritsar-South MLA from Congress gives this battle a different twist. Bolaria says, “Parkash Singh Badal has pitted Majithia against Sidhu to save his own son Sukhbir Singh Badal. After all, Majithia holds sway in Akali Dal and could be a potential threat to his brother-in-law Sukhbir Singh Badal.”