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Chandigarh : The Congress’ decision to tackle anti-incumbency ahead of next year’s elections in Punjab by following the model the Bharatiya Janata Party used in Uttarakhand and Gujarat and changing the chief minister may end up helping the Aam Aadmi Party, politicians and experts said.
AAP, they added, stands to gain more from this than the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party (SAD-BSP) combine. The BJP, which has been at the receiving end of the protesting farmers’ ire, is still struggling to get its act together in the state.
AAP, which won 20 seats in the 2017 state polls to emerge as the principal opposition party, has been working for months to cash in on the instability in the Congress, which has been evident since earlier this year. The party, experts said, is slowly gaining traction in large pockets of the state with its campaign theme (anti-incumbency and giving a new arty a chance), and populist promises (on power especially) . It helps, the experts said, that the party has no baggage — unlike the Akalis who are not only facing a blowback from farmers (they were part of the NDA government till the laws were passed), and are yet to overcome the backlash from the emotive sacrilege and police firing issues.
Tensions between Singh and Sidhu, simmering since 2019, heightened in May last year after the Punjab government suffered a legal setback in a 2015 case of police firing on a crowd protesting the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.
AAP has been consistent in attacking both the Congress and the Akalis on these issues. Prof Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science, Panjab University, says the AAP will stand to gain from the upheaval in the Congress in a multi-cornered contest.
But the party has its own set of challenges. “They (AAP) have their own sets of problems, starting with the fact they have not been able to offer a chief ministerial face to people. Another issue is the party leadership’s attempts to run the state unit from Delhi which was hurt them in 2017 as well,” he added. AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced in June that the party would have a Sikh CM candidate in the state.
Meanwhile, even as the party has been searching for a prominent Sikh personality for its CM face, it will have to manage the aspirations of two-time Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, the most popular state leader of AAP, experts said. The party’s top brass has offered to make him the deputy CM in case it gets the numbers needed to form the government in 2022, people familiar with the matter said, but has reservations about making him the face of the party.
Raghav Chadha, co-incharge of AAP’s Punjab unit, said governance in the state of Punjab has been the biggest casualty in Congress’s “Game of Thrones”. “Congress party is on a suicide mission. It is destroying itself. The saddest thing is that in this constant fight over the throne in Punjab between Capt Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu and a few others… the Congress government did not do any work. Now, if the Congress thinks that by merely changing the captain, they’d be able to save their Titanic-like sinking ship, then they are mistaken. There has been so much corruption and lack of intent doing good work for the people of Punjab that now changing the captain of the ship will not help. The entire ship in Punjab needs to be changed and this is where AAP comes into play,” he said.
Jarnail Singh, who is the co-incharge of AAP’s Punjab unit with Chadha, said, the resignation of Singh is an acknowledgment by the Congress party that its government totally failed in Punjab. “The preparation of what happened today was happening within the Congress for a long time. The Congress today has put a stamp on its inefficiency and failure. Every minister and MLA who worked under the Amarinder government should be held accountable. The crucial time of the pandemic where the Congress government should have dedicated their service to the people of Punjab, the grand old party just kept fighting within themselves,” he said.
Courtesy : Hindustan Times/Author : Navneet Sharma