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NEW DELHI: Why did the BJP top leadership ditch cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu at the behest of the Akali Dal as its candidate from Amritsar where the cricketer has won since 2004?
No doubt, Sidhu was a warpath with the Badal family-led Akali Dal for alleged neglect of his constituency for development projects. In fact, Sidhu was persuaded by the top BJP leadership last year not to go ahead with his fast against what he had called the discrimination against his constituency. After that, Sidhu was not invited to Punjab government functions in his constituency.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law Bikramjit Mijithia wanted to get rid of Sidhu from Amritsar as Mijithia considers it to be his turf. They made it plain to the BJP that they won’t support Sidhu this time.
But more than anything else, it was the Akali Dal’s search for a mai-baap in the BJP in Delhi that Arun Jaitely got the invite to contest from Amritsar. He is a senior leader and a Punjabi who will act as the bridge between the BJP and the Akalis in Delhi. Previously, this role was played by Madanlal Khurana and L.K. Advani as Akali supremo and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh shared a great rapport with them. In fact, it was Badal’s special equation with Khurana and Advani which had paved the way for their enduring alliance.
But now with both Khurana and Advani gone from the central BJP scene, the Akali Dal badly needs some mai-baap in the BJP at the central level. And Arun Jaitley suits them the best because he is a Punjabi. And this thing suits Jaitley also because this anchor role will raise his profile in the BJP because after all the Akali Dal is one of the only two parties (the other being Shiv Sena) which have been its ally all these years.
Jaitley has grabbed this opportunity with both hands and replaced his `protege’ Sidhu from Amritsar. With his victory assured from Amritsar, Jaitley is playing cards very well to emerge as a kingmaker as for as the Akali-BJP relationship is concerned.
So why bother about Sidhu?