Chandigarh, March 11
Will Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh be able to deliver a 13-0 victory for the Congress in Punjab this time? In all probability the answer appears to be yes, given the popularity wave the Chief Minister is currently riding on for multiple reasons like farmers’ debt waiver, vigorous and successful campaign against drugs, improving law and order and creating a feel good factor that has led to generation of a lot of jobs.
However, the party will have to guard against complacency and over-confidence that usually set in under such circumstances.
Coupled with that is the complete disarray the opposition is in right now. Shiromani Akali Dal, the principle opposition party, is fighting a battle for its survival. The BJP has always ridden piggyback on them. The Aam Aadmi Party is completely fragmented with the party in all probability likely to lose even the security deposit in all the 13 parliamentary constituencies.
The only unified and strong force currently in the state is the Congress party under the leadership of Capt Amarinder. Given his towering stature recognised at the national level as well, there is virtually no leader currently in the state who can match or compete with him. Although five-time Chief Minister and Akali stalwart Parkash Singh Badal also enjoys great stature, has virtually been preparing himself for political retirement and is making minimum public appearances.
The Chief Minister is well aware of the ground realities. The political situation and equations across the country in the aftermath of the suicidal attack in Pulwama have changed, giving an edge to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party. The opposition parties at the national level, including the Congress, could not formulate an effective and pragmatic strategy to deal with the situation. Entire opposition ended up being seen as “questioning the capability of country’s armed forces”, which the BJP is projecting as “anti-national”.
But Capt Amarinder managed to change the narrative in Punjab. His aggressive stance against Pakistan and unambiguous support for the air strikes has endeared him to the masses, not only in Punjab, but across the country. He is seen to be the most popular leader in the Congress who cannot compromise on the national interest at any cost even if it means taking a stand different from the party.
On the domestic front within Punjab, taking investigations into the Bargari sacrilege and subsequent police firing on protestors to logical conclusion by constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which has expedited the investigation, has further endeared him to the section of the voters, that would normally side with the panthic parties.
The debt waiver has also touched the right chords among the peasantry, otherwise considered to be among the core constituency of the Akalis.
In fact right now Capt Amarinder has all aces up his sleeve to play in the General Elections, which are bound to reap rich dividends for his party. There is already a perception gaining ground across the state that the Congress might sweep all the 13 constituencies this time. Such positive perception is certain to give bigger boost to the party as it goes for elections on May 19.
Probably that explains the reason why the entire Akali leadership, including the first family, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia, are already sweating it out across the state. Harsimrat Badal has confined herself within the Bathinda parliamentary constituency where she is slogging it out from early morning till late in the evening.