Congress Gets Timely Oxygen in Punjab After Amarinder Finally Yields Ground to Sidhu

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Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu. — File photo

The party has made it amply clear that Sidhu may be the chief ministerial face for the 2022 Assembly poll

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

THE patch-up between Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the newly appointed president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Navjot Singh Sidhu has dealt a blow to the prospect of the main opposition party Shiromani Akali Dal to stage a comeback in the next year’s Assembly election.

In the last few months Congress has been working in Punjab as both the ruling party and that of opposition, which was actually decimated in the2017 poll.

The matured way in which the Congress central leadership finally prevailed  and sorted out the crisis gave a big boost to the ruling party to revive its chance. The installing of Sidhu as the PPCC president has, in a way, made it amply clear that he may be the chief ministerial face for the 2022 Assembly poll. It seems that the Congress has adopted the BJP line which went to poll in Asssam in March-April with Sarbananda Sonowal as the chief minister but tacitly backed the candidature of Himanta Biswa Sarma.

The Congress central leadership got an idea that the incumbency factor may work against Amarinder Singh as he had failed to fulfil some of the promises made in the last Assembly election, for example, bringing to book all those involved in the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and getting the state rid of drug culture. Not only that the present chief minister failed to tackle the growing power crisis which had its severe impact on the paddy cultivation and industry of Punjab.

The Gandhis, who had throughout been backing cricketer-turned-humourist-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, were aware that the issues raised by him are genuine and are close to the day-to-day life of the average voters. At the same time the central leadership did not want to ruffle the feather of Amarinder Singh, whose contributions to the Congresss ever since the militancy days are not be under-estimated.

As in the saffron camp where service of PM Narendra Modi as well as UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is almost two decades younger to him, are equally important, the Congress too realised that 58-year old Sidhu is the demand  of the situation whereas it is time for 79-year-old Amarinder Singh to hang his boots so far the state politics is concerned and move to the national level.

So, if the RSS intervened and brought about a sort of truce between Modi and Yogi, who is considered as a future prospect of the saffron party, the Congress succeeded in prevailing over Amarinder Singh. In private he was reminded by the party that during the 2017 Assembly election campaign the Captain had publicly announced that this would be his last term as the chief minister.

The Captain who still has some clout in the state politics and enjoys supports of substantial number of 40 per cent Hindu votes, had certainly failed on several counts. But after the collapse of the four decades long Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance following the passage of three farm laws the Captain had become over-confident. After the farmers agitation he became too big for his boots and started thinking that the coming poll would be cakewalk for him. It was at this point that Sidhu cut-in.

In between, the SAD leader and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal announced on the occasion of Amebdkar Jyanti on April 14 that his party would make Dalit as the deputy chief minister of Punjab. Two months later he disclosed that his party had formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party..

This would be the first time since the 1996 Lok Sabha poll that the two parties have joined hands in Punjab.That was largely because Punjab has 32 per cent Dalit population.

The SAD , which could win only 15 seats in the House of 117 last time and its alliance partner the BJP just three, had left 20 seats for the BSP.  The SAD-BJP alliance in 2017 could not even match the performance of the new player in the Punjab politics, the Aam Aadmi Party, which bagged 20 seats against the Congress 77.

No doubt the SAD-BSP alliance has been made to revive the fortune of both the parties but in case of Punjab one must understand that the Dalit voting pattern is not in line with other states. This is largely because the discrimination against Dalit or Mazhabi  Sikh is not so strong or palpable though it is also a fact that 20 per cent Jat Sikhs dominate the politics of the state. Mind it Amarinder, Sidhu and Badal are Jat Sikhs.

Besides, another challenge before SAD is that unlike in the past there is no towering Dalit leaders in Punjab. It needs to be mentioned that the founder of BSP, Kanshi Ram, was originally a Mazhabi Sikh from Punjab. Had he been alive the SAD-BSP alliance would have looked with some hope.

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