Issue :   
June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

PUNJAB SCENE

Captain remains unchallenged

K S Chawla

Amarinder Singh Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has retained his leadership by ensuring the success of his party in winning eight seats out of the 13 which the Congress contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had won only three seats and, therefore, this is a big improvement this time. The Congress victory in eight constituencies in Punjab, however, does not match mission-13 which Amarinder Singh had declared; he had asserted that his party would bag all 13 seats from Punjab. Yet winning eight seats shows that the antiincumbency factor owing to two-year Congress rule in Punjab became meaningless.

Harsimrat Badal and Sukhbir Badal The Shiromini Akali Dal, which had been decimated in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, has secured two seats – Bathinda and Ferozepur--- contested by the wife-husband duo, Harsimrat Badal and Sukhbir Badal, the party president. The SAD, which had put up 10 candidates, has lost on all other seats. Now the SAD has been reduced to a family party with the victory of the duo.

Bhagwant Mann The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had won four seats in 2014 in the wake of the Kejriwal wave in Delhi, could get only one seat, thanks to the efforts of state party unit chief Bhagwant Mann, who has kept the party flag flying. AAP has been decimated this time as on all the other seats, the party has lost sureties as well.
AAP suffered a setback because of the alleged dictatorial attitude of Arvind Kejriwal as a result of which two MPs --- Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa --- had been suspended after 2014. Moreover, there was split in the party and Sukhpal Khaira, who was the Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, was removed from AAP. The disgruntled leaders then formed a new party known as the Punjab Ekta Party. He further set up a Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) along with Dharamvir Gandhi and comprising the Lok Insaf Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the CPI. Sukhpal Khaira, who contested from Bathinda, has also lost. Two AAP legislators had defected to the Congress. Moreover, there was resentment among the AAP workers over the apology tendered by Kejriwal in a defamation case filed by Bikram Singh Majithia, a former Akali minister. AAP, as a matter of fact, has got rattled in Punjab and does not have any strong base now. Bhagwant Mann, state president of AAP, will have to work hard to rebuild its base in Punjab.

Sunny Deol Hardip Puri The Congress party in Punjab received a severe setback as its state president, Sunil Jakhar, lost the eelections to film actor Sunny Deol from the Gurdaspur constituency. Jakhar had won Gurdaspur in the byelection with a margin of nearly two lakh votes. Jakhar lost Gurdaspur due to the Modi charisma despite the fact that almost all the Vidhan Sabha segments in Gurdaspur were held by Congress legislators. The BJP won the Hoshiarpur reserved Lok Sabha seat, but it lost its third seat of Amritsar where Hardip Puri was the BJP candidate against Congress nominee GS Aujla, a sitting MP.

The Shiromini Akali Dal had to face wrath of Sikh voters due to sacrilege incidents and the police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura. Radical Sikh organizations had organized demonstrations against the Badals in protest against the sacrilege incidents. The Badals, while campaigning, gave up the Panthic agenda and adopted.

Parkash Singh Badal Atal Bihari Vajpayee Modi’s nationalism agenda. Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister, who has been talking of the Panthic agenda only and claiming to be the sole representative of the Sikhs, also adopted the Modi agenda and said that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi were friends of Sikhs and Punjab, forgetting that the erstwhile Jan Sangh had opposed the formation of the Punjabi Suba.

Sikh politics witnessed a major revolt against the Badals after the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a senior Akali leader, was the first to protest against the leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal and sought his removal. Later, three more senior Akali leaders --- Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Dr. Rattan Singh and Sewa Singh Sekhwan --- also raised the banner of revolt and they formed the Akali Dal (Taksali). But the Badals could check the onslaught further and no other Akali leader deserted the Badals. The Akali Dal (Taksali) put up Bir Devinder Singh, former Deputy Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, from Anandpur Sahib where he lost.

As a matter of fact, the Badals were engaged only in campaigning in the Bathinda and Ferozepur constituencies as their prestige was involved. The eight candidates of the Akali Dal were left to fend for themselves. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s son Parminder Dhindsa contested from Sangrur but the senior Dhindsa did not support him. He had advised his son not to contest the election on an Akali ticket.

Captain Amarinder Singh, who led the campaign from the front, had warned the Congress legislators and ministers that their performance in the elections would decide their future. But this did not have much impact as some senior Congress leaders, including ministers, opposed the candidature of Sher Singh Gubhaya, who had defected from the Akali Dal and was given the ticket to fight for the Ferozepur seat. He lost to Sukhbir Badal with quite a big margin. Gubhaya was the sitting Akali MP from Ferozepur and had developed differences with Sukhbir as a result of which he resigned from the Akali Dal and joined the Congress in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi.

Navjot Singh Sidhu Captain Amarinder Singh is feeling very much uncomfortable with Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu has reportedly stated at Bathinda, “There was friendly match.” Amarinder feels that this has resulted in the defeat of the Congress nominee Amarinder Singh Raja, warring against Harsimrat Badal. Harsimrat won by 21,000 votes after trailing in the rural areas. She won because of urban votes. Manpreet Badal, Finance Minister, also represents the Bathinda urban seat in the Vidhan Sabha and the victory of Harsimrat Badal is a reflection on Manpreet’s leadership.
The Chief Minister has announced that he would send his report to the party high command regarding the role of Navjot Singh Sidhu and has hinted at changing his portfolio.

Kirron Kher Sidhu wanted the Congress ticket for his wife from Chandigarh which was denied and Pawan Bansal was given the ticket. But Bansal has lost to BJP nominee Kirron Kher. Navjot’s wife could give a better fight to Kirron Kher as she is having a clean image compared to that of Bansal.

-- The writer is a senior
journalist based at Ludhiana.