The two players on the Punjab political chess board whose Mission 2017 moves need to be closely watched are the Bharatiya Janata Party and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. The option of People’s Party of Punjab chief Manpreet Singh Badal could be limited to these two players, depending upon the situation. Capt Amarinder Singh launches his campaign from Jalandhar tomorrow.
Not that the Akali Dal and the Congress can’t be counted among the key players with Aam Aadmi Party also strategizing to emerge as the dark horse. It is the moves likely to be made by these two players that would have the potential to upset others. This is based upon the assumption that Capt Amarinder Singh might be dictated by the situation and forced by his associates to charter independent course in case the present stalemate over the leadership issue in the state continues any longer.
Capt Amarinder Singh has repeatedly scoffed such rumours but despite that, it is now an open secret that some of his close associates would like him to take the risk as he is the only leader in the state Congress who continues to have his charisma and draws crowds. His Achilles’ Heel is his inconsistency.
His associates are clear that without him, they have little future, especially in the absence of desired change in the state leadership as Partap Singh Bajwa has not succeeded in roping in the support of party MLAs despite clear signal from the party high command that Amarinder would not be entrusted with the responsibility of commanding the party in 2017 Assembly elections with the Congress having lost two previous elections under his leadership, whatever might be the reasons.
Bajwa has not been getting much response to the interactive campaign that he has launched to cover all the 34 reserve seats in the state which would be followed by padyatra. This is part of the national programme. Although he is not addressing rallies, the comparisons with the Amarinder rallies would be natural and normal.
At one level, these rallies might be part of the exercise by his supporters to assess the situation and his level of popularity in case Punjab is to witness the birth of yet another political party. Amarinder has repeatedly and publicly stated that Bajwa can’t deliver. However, the final decision rests with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. This is the problem with all the dynasties in politics. However, the signal is already there with three of his supporters having been issued show cause notice by the state level disciplinary action committee. Action is already on. This may further push him to the wall leaving him with the only option. With the issue of show cause notices to three of the supporters of Capt Amarinder Singh, swords are out.
Amarinder, however, in case he exercises the choice to come out from the Congress once again, would have to seek alliance and that too with a party that has the potential and vote bank to catapult him to power. The choice would be limited to the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP in case it finally decides to break the alliance dating back to 1996. The BSP has little support base left.
The BJP and the Sangh Parivar have been working at it for the last several months. The party got emboldened with the overwhelming victory in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the wave Narendra Modi generated was unprecedented in recent years. However in Punjab, BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley faced a humiliating defeat in Amritsar where the Congress pitted Amarinder against him. Amarinder has never looked back since his victory that brought him back to the centre stage, thereby igniting his ambition.
The one issue on which the BJP is repeatedly hitting the Akali Dal hard is the menace of drugs. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was in no position to contradict Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he referred to the drug issue from the stage during 350th anniversary celebrations of Anandpur Sahib on June 19. Nothing could be more embarrassing for Badal and his Deputy Chief Minister son Sukhbir Singh Badal. After all, Home Minister is the person who has all the information.
However, Badal could not digest the humiliation when the issue was again raised by another Union minister Thawar Chand Gehlot from the stage at Hoshiarpur on anti-drug day. BJP is leaving no occasion to embarass the Akali Dal.
The Modi government has failed to come to the rescue of Punjab on any issue. The signals are clear.The BJP has already announced its programme to strengthen the party upto booth level all over the state.The BJP, too, can’t take the risk of going solo in Punjab. The party would have to seek alliance.In case Capt Amarinder Singh decides to float his party, he would have to seek alliance and the BJP is would be in a similar situation in case it decides to part with the Akali Dal.
By Jagtar Singh