As the time for Punjab state legislative elections approaches the political landscape in the region is heating up at a very fast pace. The situation and narrative is changing almost overnight. Sadly, incidents of violence are also on the increase which indicates frustration in certain quarters that wish to see the limelight focussed on themselves and are ready to go to any extent for the same.
There are three issues that the state is seized with presently. The latest and most significant is the decision of launching a new party announced by Captain Amarinder Singh, former chief minister of Punjab. Also of note is the brutal murder of a Dalit Sikh by a group of Nihangs (a Sikh sect).
The decision of Captain Amarinder Singh to form a new party was expected given the obnoxious manner in which he has been treated by the Indian National Congress (INC). With complete disregard to his four decade service to the party and his stature and two time Chief Minister of the state he was arbitrarily removed from the chair of Chief Minister a few months before the state assembly elections. No leader of the stature of Capt. Amarinder Singh would take such an insult lying down; by deciding to leave the Congress and launch his own party he has done what is right and honourable under the circumstances.
“Hopeful of a seat arrangement with the BJP in 2022 Punjab Assembly polls if farmers’ protest is resolved in farmers’ interest. Also looking at alliance with like-minded parties such as breakaway Akali groups, particularly Dhindsa and Brahmpura factions,” said Amarinder Singh’s media advisor Raveen Thukral in a tweet even as the leader is yet to make a public statement.
The reference to BJP as a possible alliance partner has set the political and media circles abuzz in the state. While the senior leadership of the BJP has maintained a diplomatic silence, the other parties, especially the Congress, are in a state of panic. Wild allegations about Amarinder Singh having been a BJP mole in the Congress since taking over as the Chief Minsiter are being made by senior Congress leaders. They are in bad taste and only expose the weakness of the party. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has claimed the possible alliance between the BJP and Amarinder Singh as an “unholy nexus”. In so saying the party has conveniently sidelined the fact that it remained a partner with the BJP for thirty long years.
Quite obviously, the opposition being exhibited to the decision of Captain Amarinder Singh lacks substance and is the result of frustration. For any right thinking person this move would constitute a step in the right direction and well within the constitutional rights of the individual. It will possibly throw up a new leadership which is much needed in Punjab.
The icing on the cake would be a rapprochement with the Farm Bills agitators through joint interventions by Captain Amarinder Singh and the centre; a positive move in this direction would be of great benefit to the region that is suffering immensely due to disruptions caused by the agitation.
A seat sharing alliance between Amarinder Singh’s party, the BJP and possibly the Taksalis (Dhindsa and Brahmpura) would depend upon how the new party evolves. If it is going to be a surrogate of the earlier corrupt Congress dispensation then nothing new can be achieved.
Captain Amarinder will need to shed the baggage of the past and come up with a new vision involving new and young talent. Further, jointly with the centre he will need to engage with relevant farm leaders and come up with a solution that is just and honourable for the centre, the nation and Punjab. If these parameters can be met then all like-minded parties can get together to give to Punjab an effective and dynamic leadership.
The barbaric killing murder of the Dalit Sikh, Lakhbir Singh, at the Singhu border has sent shock waves across India and the world. As the police investigations proceed it is seen from media reports that the statements given by those present there, including those arrested on having taken responsibility for the killing. It is being alleged that the same was a premeditated murder in which an extreme form of violence was witnessed. This makes the agitation sites very dangerous as dens of vice and criminality.
Close in the heels of the alleged crime at the Singhu border the Supreme court during hearing of a petition seeking removal of the protesters from the roads on 21 October has observed that farmers had the right to protest, but roads cannot be blocked indefinitely. “You may have a right to agitate in any manner but roads should not be blocked like this. People have right to go on roads but it cannot be blocked,” said the bench. “Ultimately some solution has to be found. We are not averse to their right to protest even when a legal challenge is pending, but roads cannot be blocked,” the court further observed. A bench has granted three weeks’ time to farmer unions to file their response and the next hearing has been slated for 7 December. As the legalities proceed it is quite apparent that common people are very disturbed by the continuous blockade and the Court is sensitive to their discomfiture.
The vacation of the agitation sites stands identified as the most critical challenge for the regional and the central leadership, since it is posing a huge security threat to the region and to the nation at large. Vacation on resolution of the vexed Farms Bills issue would be the best and permanent method to put this unfortunate situation to rest permanently. It is here that Captain Amarinder can play a dynamic role. If he works in close coordination with the centre and the group succeeds it would be deemed as the biggest service to the beleaguered state. The leadership of the group will be firmly established.
In the forthcoming elections an alliance based on a righteousness approach keeping in mind the many challenges that the state of Punjab is facing would be a welcome step in the right direction. Like minded parties will need to reach to a common minimum programme and then pursue it with honesty. This would be the best recourse for Punjab.