Pakistan Factor in Poll-Bound Indian Punjab: BJP Must Be Delighted

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Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu.

The outgoing CM calling Sidhu a friend of Pakistan is not without reason

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

SOUNDS somewhat bizarre, nevertheless it is a fact. Pakistan factor has come to play its part in the poll-bound Indian Punjab politics. For this at least one can not directly hold the Bharatiya Janata Party responsible.

Immediately after his resignation from the post of Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, on September 18, once again accused the president of the Pradesh Congress Committee and his own former deputy, Navjot Singh Sidhu, as a friend of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the army chief of that country, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and thus hinted that he is a security threat for India in general, and to Punjab in particular.

But this was not the first time that Amarinder raised the issue of Sidhu’s
proximity to the Pakistani leaders. He disapproved of Sidhu’s hugging of General Bajwa during his visit to Islamabad three years back when he was still the deputy chief minister of Punjab. He was there on the occasion of the swearing in ceremony of Imran Khan.
Sidhu also showered praise on Imran Khan when he was present at the time of inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor in November 2019. Amarinder didn’t attend that ceremony.

While Sidhu championed the cause of India-Pakistan friendship the Captain often adopted tougher posture and had repeatedly charged Islamabad with fomenting terrorism in Indian Punjab—though in his previous term as CM he was friendly towards that country.
But the story did not stop here. The Sidhu faction would, in not so many words, raise objection to Amarinder’s closeness to a defence journalist of Pakistan, Aroosa Alam. As a lady friend of Amarinder Singh she would often come to Chandigarh by road from Pakistan and had prolong stays in Chandigarh.

Though many in the Punjab would not like to raise the issue on the plea that the personal relationship should not be dragged into politics yet there are many others in media circle who counter this argument on the ground that Aroosa has connection with top army generals of Pakistan. Her mother, Aqleem Akhter, known as General Rani, was considered close to the former Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan. Pakistan got dismembered in December 1971 when he was the ruler of the country.

Aroosa was in the eyes of storm in June 2021 when a famous Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir, alleged that she was close to the ISI chief Gen. Faiz Hameed. According to him, Hameed’s wife reportedly opened a fire when she saw Aroosa and her husband
together in her own house.

In India Aroosa’s friendship with Captain dates back to at least 2007, though they first met in 2004 when the latter visited Pakistan during his previous tenure as the chief minister.
Whatever be the truth, one can not deny the fact that the Pakistan angle may play some role in the run up to the Assembly election. Along with the BJP, Captain Amarinder too blamed Pakistan for the drone attacks and for fomenting troubles in the state.

As the Captain had failed to stop the drug menace–though he came to power on the promise that he would wipe it out–he has now repeatedly been holding Pakistan responsible for the smuggling of narcotics into Punjab. In a way, he would try to wash his hands off by putting the ball into the court of the Centre as the smuggling
needs to be stopped on the international border.

Whatever may be his plea the voters of Punjab are not going to accept any of
Amarinder’s excuses his government has failed on all the fronts–be it power
crisis, farmers’ distress or failure to take action against those responsible for the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib when Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP were in power.
There are many in the Congress who can take a sigh of relief after his exit as Amarinder proved an utter failure even at the time when average farmers are extremely angry towards the SAD and BJP for the enactment of three farm laws exactly a year back.

Independent political observers are of the view that the Congress has now come back to the position of giving a fight as the SAD and BJP had largely become discredited. The SAD had abandoned the BJP and had in June last joined hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party with the hope that it may garner about 32 per cent Dalit
votes.

There is no dearth of analysts who are of the view that Amarinder may cross over to the BJP, which is badly in need of a face in the state. If this happens, the saffron party may even make a pre-poll promise of softening its stand on the three farm laws.

Though the Captain has not revealed his future plan of action, yet many Punjab-watchers are of the view that he has often adopted nationalistic tone which pleases the BJP leaders. During his previous tenure as the CM he paid a visit to Pakistan and even invited his counterpart of Pakistan Punjab to visit his state.

However, one of the commentators is of the view that Captain Amarinder Singh’s stand towards Pakistan lacks consistency. For example, when the Indian army launched a surgical strike in 2016 he went against his own party’s stand and maintained that there was no need for India to show proof. He was then not in power and the election in Punjab was due early in 2017.

But during the Balakot strike Amarinder, as the chief minister, did not go against the Congress party’s position. As an ex-army officer who fought the 1965 war with Pakistan it is natural for him to take a tough stand against the enemy.

But it should not be forgotten that if Amarinder had fought against Pakistan his arch-rival in Congress, Navjot Singh Sidhu, had played cricket against Pakistan.

His match-winning 93 against that country during the 1996 World Cup is still remembered. He was declared man of the match. He links his relationship with Imran Khan to those cricketing years.

But politics is a different ball game.

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