The political confrontation between former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the Congress has become personal, with some of the senior leaders demanding an inquiry to determine whether the Captain’s Pakistani companion, Aroosa Alam, had any links with the ISI.
The supreme irony is that Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who was at one time in Amarinder’s inner circle and enjoyed cordial relations with the Pakistani journalist, has chosen to hit out at his former boss, to counter the Captain’s no holds barred attack on the Congress and its leaders.
It is very clear that Randhawa, a part of the Majha brigade, wants to endear himself to the party high command, which is being accused of humiliating and sacking the Captain, in the most unceremonious manner. On the defensive, the former soldier asked his erstwhile colleague to concentrate on improving law and order in the state, instead of wasting public money on an investigation by the DGP.
The latest spat has perhaps set the tone for the kind of malicious allegations that would be hurled by several prominent players during the run up to the Assembly polls. Questions are certainly going to be raised why Aroosa was staying in the CM’s residence and how she got to attend the swearing in ceremony of Punjab ministers, four and a half years ago.
The Captain, in a series of interviews during the course of the week, has lashed out at the Congress leadership and has formally announced that he would be forming his own political party, which could have a possible tie up with the BJP, and some splinter groups of the Akali Dal.
He has also said that he would try and help in settling the farmers’ issue that has caused social unrest in the state for the past one year. The calculation is very simple that if Amarinder succeeds in negotiating a settlement with the peasants, he would be seen as a prominent political entity during the forthcoming polls.
Undoubtedly, he is the tallest leader of Punjab and enjoys tremendous goodwill and respect amongst the people, even if his popularity had supposedly dipped during the past few months.
The Hindus see him as a nationalist and would not mind aligning with him in case he is able to get his political formation active in the next couple of months. For this to happen, the Captain would have to heavily poach on the Congress, particularly around ticket distribution time. The candidates who fail to get re-nominated, would automatically gravitate towards him, giving him some political muscles to flex.
However, the paramount task for him would be to get the farmers’ support. This would only be possible if their issues get resolved and they decide to not only back him but also agree to become his party’s candidates. Without the farmers’ support, the new party would be a non-starter and can be likened to a brand-new vehicle which has no petrol to run it.
The Captain is the most astute and perceptive player in Punjab and has in his interviews so far, sent a very nuanced message to the electorate. He has been particularly harsh on his bête noire Navjot Singh Sidhu and is unable to conceal his frustration and hatred while speaking about him. He has very uncharacteristically declared that he would leave Punjab if Sidhu were to ever become the CM, since he was totally anti-national.
Realising that he would need the Dalits on his side, he has chosen to describe his successor, Charanjit Singh Channi as a “good boy”, thereby implying that he was yet to attain political maturity. By announcing that he would be joining hands with the BJP, he has inadvertently proved his detractors right when they claimed that he had an understanding with the NDA government at the Centre.
The Captain has one distinct advantage over others since he is also seen as the head of the dominant Sidhu sect, which has an overriding say amongst Jat Sikhs in Patiala, Nabha, Sangrur and Faridkot, the four power centres of the Malwa belt.
The Congress is attempting to consolidate its position that has been severely affected by the acute factionalism that exists in the party. The Pradesh party chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu continues to be in a defiant mood and the apprehension is that his impulsiveness was not in the best interest of the organization. It is because of this reason that he finds himself isolated since many of those who worked with him to plot Amarinder’s ouster, also do not trust him anymore. He is feeling let down and knows that it would be very difficult for him to be the CM.
The sitting MLAs are extremely insecure and are preparing themselves to face the worst. The Aam Aadmi Party has declared that it would be fighting the polls on its own steam, while Akalis are gearing up to protect their turf.
What is going to be now the “X” factor of these polls would be the ability of the Captain to get a sizable percentage of the electorate behind him. In a four-way contest that may ensue, it would be difficult to predict what shape the next government could take. The Akalis, with whom Amarinder was accused of having an understanding, could also support him, if the need arose in this uncertain scenario.
The elections should be fought politically and personal allegations of any kind should not come into play. Between us.