Whither Punjab Politics?
Punjab politics is simmering again for the reasons that have chances and possibilities of emotional outbursts and misadventures by political participants. It can go uncontrollable with the slightest provocation and mishandling. Punjab politics these days reeks of blood akin to which we saw during the Eighties. The time that Punjab is going through, needs a political force with vision that could pull through the current economic slowdown, which is breeding much social tensions. But instead the current political leadership, incumbent as well as the opposition, has fallen in the same old trap of easy-way-out communal and emotional agendas.
The present crisis of Punjab is manifold ; Political-interparty as well as the intraparty, Economic -agrarian and industrial, Social- communal and drugs.This crisis is building up for the last two decades. State’s political leadership’s ostrich-like and casual vision towards crisis has led to the current climax. Although this crisis was not the result of policies of any single political party but there was large scale discontentment against the Badal regime, because it handled the state affairs for a decade uninterruptedly from the year 2007 to 2017.
In the assembly elections held in 2017, Congress government came to power once again in the state with a landslide and historical mandate. People rode on the wave of hope because amid the prevailing frustrated environment of the state, Congress promised to pull the state out from this crisis under the leadership of Capt Amarinder Singh- its chief ministerial candidate.
But after 16 months of Congress coming into power, people were still seen to be discontented with the Government. They felt huge gap between Party's promises made during the much hyped election campaign -and the reality. Repeated incidents of illegal mining and drugs came to the forefront. Deaths due to drugs and debt of farmers dented Amarinder govt’s image. MLA’s were pressurising the Chief Minister to proceed against the Badals in the so called corruption of cable and transport during its tenure. Some political rivals wanted to settle the score with the Akalis. Discontentment within the Congress party was also simmering against the ‘Maharaja style’ functioning of Amarinder Singh of which PPCC president Sunil Jhakhar have also had some taste. This feeling of discontent within the Congress party is what Amarinder Singh fears the most. Because it eroded his authority during his previous stint as CM, when Rajinder Kaur Bhathal was appointed deputy CM after a ‘coup’. Apart from this there was Delhi high command, breathing down Amarinder’s neck as some MLAs and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu went to Delhi after his mining policy and illegal colony drive in Ludhiana was sabotaged by his own party men.
With Justice Ranjit Singh commission report out, ‘indicting’ Parkash Singh Badal in the sacrilege incidents happened during his tenure as CM, Amarinder Singh has found a punching bag in the form of Akali Dal to give vent to the ire of public,his MLAs as well as the AAP. Now MLAs are busy bashing Akalis on TV screens, and people burning effigies of the ‘culprits’ of sacrilege.
Shiromani Akali Dal is the major political force in the state with presence in every nook and corner of the state. SAD has enjoyed an envious position in the Panthak circles –a position that has been envied by others who also have stake and interest in Panthak issues. In the past, so many other Sikh organisations and parties have tried to rise to that position. But the Grand Old Man of the SAD, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had been successful to keep all these stakeholders at fringe. SAD sustained its clout on Panthak votes by continuously winning SGPC elections and also capturing power by aligning with the hindu right wing party-the BJP.
But now the position held by the SAD in Punjab politics till now, is open for contest. First after the setback in the assembly election when SAD even failed to clinch the role of principal opposition party in the state assembly. Second, after the justice Ranjit Singh Commission report dented its image vis-a vis Panthak party.Now in tug -of- war for Panthak position there will be feud between Radicals, Khaira group of the AAP and Simranjeet Singh Bains to occupy that coveted position in the Sikh politics. Akalis will try to hit back with more strict and communal Panthak agenda. So there will be competetive communalist agendas vying with each other in this 24*7 TV world.
Crisis for the Akali Dal is more grievous. The grand old man of the party Parkash Singh Badal, has been facing physical challenges due to age. Gen Next of SAD has yet to prove its political ability and political astuteness. There are voices of revolt rising from within the party. For the SAD, without the active presence of the grand old man, it will be difficult to keep its flock together.
Akali Dal’s main alliance partner with whom it shared power in the state many times i.e Bhartiya Janta Party is silent in this hour of crisis.
The third main political force in Punjab politics is AAP. The Aaam Aadmi Party came to political landscape of India on the promise of ‘different’ type of politics. It shoot to prominent political force in no time after Delhi uprising under the banner of India Against Corruption. Someway the rise of AAP represented the aspiration class that emerged after the economic liberalisation policies that India started during the PV Narsimha Rao government in 1991. This aspiration class wanted more and more. More English medium schools, more job opportunities, more bijli/sadak/pani, more share in the current power structure were included in Party's manifesto. People of Punjab gave nod to this fresh wave of politics, when they voted for AAP candidates in the general elections in 2014. AAP’s share of total vote polled in these elections was above 24 percent and it won four seats in the Lok Sabha. But the enthusiasm the people of Punjab shown towards the AAP waned as the party delved into political crisis of leadership. The party now is going through leadership and ideological crisis.
As stated earlier Congress,AAP and Akalis will vie with each other for the Panthak space that will aggravate the communal contours further. Tough financial and economic decisions that the state need at this juncture, and the risks involved in taking those decisions will test its nerve and if failed will push the Congress government to follow some emotional issues. The inner party tussle of AAP,Congress,and Akalis will give this trend further fodder and push. After all it is important for political parties to gain and to be in power. The ultimate ‘rulers’ i.e public can wait for some more time with their sufferings and grievances.
September 03, 2018
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