Back in 2013, an Amritsar-based NGO had made headlines for puting up posters accusing cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu of betraying people’s trust who elected him an MP after being swayed by his election promises. Sidhu was slammed for his prolonged absence from his constituency. Today, as Sidhu has taken charge of Punjab’s civic body ministry, the discussion is back again. The fulcrum of current controversy is Sidhu’s continuing role in a popular comedy show while being a minister in Punjab cabinet. People have pointed out the fact that Sidhu, a popular face known for his versatile abilities, remains a non-serious politician involved in a crucial public service, but only on a part-time basis. More than a politician, Sidhu has been a public figure, always hogging the limelight for his vocal skills. As a politician, the charming cricketer falls among the rare-breed of demagogues who can easily sway the masses with his suave delivery of speeches powered by spectacular catchphrases, shayari, and also borrowing liberally from historical and mythical events. He, however, has drastically failed to turn his words into deeds – a much-required element in politics. Rather than being seen in Parliament, Sidhu is seen more in the studios of sports channels. In both 14th and 15th Lok Sabha, Sidhu’s attendance was quite low compared to both the state and national average. In 15th LS, Sidhu attended Parliament sessions on just 28 per cent of the days, a number way below the national average.
But does that disqualify him from acting and indulging in private affairs? The answer is a big ‘NO’. Many news tellers are pointing-out that Sidhu’s involvement with TV is in contradiction with current laws and a ‘conflict of interest’. However, there is a hardly any specific law available, or any previous incident, when a parliamentarian was barred from continuing his private service. Hema Malini, who is a BJP MP from Agra constituency, enjoys endorsing certain brands on television while serving as a lawmaker. Kapil Sibal was minister, still he fought cases in court. Manoj Tiwari, Shatrughan Sinha, and Ram Jethmalani are other such examples who continue to serve their respective professions while being in power. In fact, most of the politicians have their businesses running, adding to their properties every annum, which they even declare in their poll affidavits.
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However, currently, Sidhu’s involvement is being presented as an undue favour by a public servant to a private show maker which becomes moraly wrong on latter’s part. But what if one’s business (read: permanent way of earning bread) is promoting only? If Sidhu is forced to leave the comedy show, or any other such event, it will make a serious case of denying an elected public servant his due right to earn bread and butter from an area of his/her permanent profession. This will instead send a negative message demoralising many potential public faces who are willing to enter politics.
However, Sidhu has to realise that his success is huge. He defected from BJP at a time it was witnessing its most successful period. And he had the last laugh. Now, rather than quitting the show, the Punjab lawmaker needs to deliver the message that he is serious about his job, and that his priority remains with politics and the delivery of services to the public that he has been given the responsibility for, rest all is part-time.