One of the most unexpected pieces of news to come out of Punjab recently was the nomination of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu to the Rajya Sabha in April, and his acceptance of the offer.

On Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader resigned from the Rajya Sabha and is widely expected to join the Aam Aadmi Party.

A husband-wife team

An aggressive Indian Test cricket opener, a motormouth commentator and a judge of comedy shows, Sidhu had been uncharacteristically quiet when it came to politics over the last few years.

Instead, he let his wife and namesake Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a BJP MLA in Punjab, do all the talking.

She more than made up for his silence.

Navjot Kaur proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the ruling Akali Dal-BJP coalition in Punjab. An attempt by coalition leaders to silence her by making her a Chief Parliamentary Secretary, a post equivalent in status to that of a minister of state, did not prevent her from launching scathing attacks on her own government.

Her resignation from the Assembly shortly after her husband announced his resignation from the Rajya Sabha was expected.

Though a formal announcement regarding their joining the Aam Aadmi Party is yet to be made, there seems little doubt that the couple is set to join the party ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab next year.

What next?

Their entry into the party isn't without problems. AAP forbids more than one member of a family from contesting under its banner.

Party insiders say that the issue is being debated. Some party leaders are of the view that Navjot Kaur should be asked to contest the elections from a specific constituency so that her husband is free to campaign for AAP across the state. In case of an AAP victory, he could enter the Vidhan Sabha if he were to be made chief minister. The other view is that Sidhu should contest while his wife should campaign. No decision on this seems to have been made yet.

In the past, Navjot Kaur had repeatedly declared that her husband would not return to Punjab politics till the BJP parted ways with the Akali Dal. Even after her husband was made a member of the core committee of the Punjab BJP by virtue of his being a Member of Parliament, she said a few days ago that he would stick to his resolve and would not attend any committee meetings as long as his party was in alliance with the Akalis in the state.

Sidhu vs Majithia

The former cricketer, who once served as MP from Amritsar, has had a long-standing political rivalry with Bikram Singh Majithia, the powerful brother-in-law of Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. Majithia is the brother of Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Majithia hails from the Majha region of Punjab of which Amritsar is a part. His followers like to call him “Majhe da Jarnail" or the General of Majha. Sidhu and Majithia had been involved in a bitter fight of supremacy in the region. When Sidhu was the Amritsar MP, he alleged that Majithia was not allowing development in his constituency due to his proximity with Sukhbir Badal.

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sidhu made it known that he was not keen on seeking re-election from Amritsar partly because he was aware that Majithia would leave no stone unturned to ensure his defeat and partly because he was aware of the people’s anger against the Akalis.

He, therefore, declared that he would not contest from Amritsar, leaving the seat for Arun Jaitely.

The Akalis saw this as an opportunity to curry favour with Jaitely, who was expected to exercise great influence at the Centre if Narendra Modi led the BJP to power. They put their might behind Jaitely but popular sentiment against Majithia and the Akali Dal, and the personal charisma of Amarinder Singh, who was the Congress candidate from that seat, led to an embarrassing defeat for Jaitley.

Sidhu as chief minister?

Ever since the rise of AAP in Punjab, the air was thick with speculation that Sidhu would join the party and be its chief ministerial candidate.

Therefore his acceptance of a Rajya Sabha seat from the BJP came as a shock. It was presumed that the BJP wanted to keep him away from AAP, which is making a strong bid to wrest power in the state. However the recent Modi ministry expansion, which ignored Sidhu, could have been the clincher.

The biggest handicap of AAP in Punjab was the lack of a face, particularly a Sikh face, for its chief ministerial candidate. Sidhu fits the bill well. His involvement in the electoral field will drastically change the parameters and factors at play in the elections.