It’s political as unusual in Punjab, with an eye on Gujarat, HP
Punjab reportedly felt a sense of near deja vu watching the Congress political crisis in neighboring Rajasthan. The extent of damage, or damage control, if any, in the increasingly unachievable matrix between the Gandhis, Ashok Gehlot, and Sachin Pilot will ultimately be considered. What can be said now is that this underscores the treatment of chief ministers by the congressional high command. On his discourteous exit as chief minister of Punjab, former Congress warhorse Captain Amarinder Singh, now in the saffron lap, said he felt “humiliated” by the Gandhis, who wanted a new face in Punjab before the elections, just like in Rajasthan. now. The Congress that once looked formidable before the assembly elections in Punjab is now licking its wounds.
Go back through the pages of Congress history. In 1990, Rajiv Gandhi removed Veerendra Patil from the hot seat halfway through Patil’s second run as Chief Minister of Karnataka. It was another matter that Patil was gravely ill and unable to lead the government, but what was seen as the summary ousting of a well-respected chief minister resulted in Congress losing the support of the powerful and electorally important Lingayat community, to which Patil belonged. The party has not been able to recoup community support since.
In Andhra Pradesh in 1982, Indira Gandhi sacked Chief Minister T Anjaiah, reportedly over an incident at the airport which angered AICC Secretary General Rajiv Gandhi. This cost the party dearly as the Congress tasted defeat in Andhra Pradesh in the 1983 assembly elections.
In 2008, the Chief Minister of Pondicherry, N Rangaswamy, was removed from office to appoint a candidate from the Congress High Command. Rangaswamy created his own party, won the 2011 assembly elections convincingly and formed the government. He is currently the new Chief Minister and part of the BJP-led NDA.
Back in Punjab, much of the Congress debacle was self-inflicted, which is why the pandemonium in neighboring Rajasthan spilled over into Punjab. Bhagwant Mann, the chief minister of the Aam Aadmi party in Punjab, mocks the Congress for not keeping his house in order. Crucially, Mann also accuses Congress and the BJP of colluding to destabilize his government.
The AAP is hoping for a groundswell in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and much of the political dynamic between warring parties in Punjab is orchestrated with an eye on the two poll-linked states. It may also explain why the AAP government felt the need, strangely, for a motion of confidence in the Punjab Assembly – only the second time in Punjab’s political history.
Behind all this political maneuvering by the AAP government were allegations of an attempted “Operation Lotus,” or political bargaining, by the BJP. The AAP claimed that 10 of its MPs were offered Rs 25 crore each to switch loyalties by the BJP in a bid to destabilize its government, a charge denied by the saffron party. For a party that only won a landslide victory in March this year, with an unprecedented 92/117 seats, there was no doubting its majority and winning the confidence motion itself was a walk in the park. . But the idea behind it was to send a message to the electorate not just in Punjab but in the two poll-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh that the AAP remains resolute and its home in perfect condition, unlike other political formations.
The victory of the AAP in March in Punjab had reinvigorated Arvind Kejriwal. After all, it was the second state, after Delhi, where the AAP had won a landslide victory. Kejriwal sees his party pushing Congress to become the main opposition party at the national level. The outcome of the upcoming polls in Gujarat and HP will be crucial to that goal and will tell the rest of the nation whether Kejriwal could emerge on the national political scene to challenge Narendra Modi.
This is what has left Congress and the BJP agitated. Mann and Kejriwal are staple ingredients of election rallies in Gujarat and HP. Delhi’s model of governance, the resounding victory in Punjab and the AAP’s claims of its achievements in Punjab over the last six months of rule are the party’s selling points in poll-bound states.
The Congress and the BJP in Punjab are trying to blunt this budding propaganda, showing that it is more of a case of leadership failure in Punjab and that Mann is being controlled from afar by his party bosses in Delhi. . It’s a charge that Mann has been unable to convincingly refute. The disturbing rise of radical voices in Punjab has the AAP as its target. Just months after its breakthrough victory, the AAP had egg on its face after losing a crucial by-election for the Sangrur MP seat.
This seat is the home of Chief Minister Mann, and he was actually the MP for Sangrur in the Malwa region of Punjab, before becoming CM. More importantly, the seat was won by a Khalistan ideologue, Simranjit Singh Mann, who now represents SAD (Amritsar) in the Lok Sabha. Mann’s alleged fiasco at Frankfurt airport, where he was allegedly dropped off after being found “drunk”, was also fodder for the opposition.
Punjab offers lessons for the Congress, but who in the party is listening. The Congress unit still remains a badly divided house, its former CM Charanjit Channi is missing, having chosen to go into exile somewhere in Canada under the guise of pursuing a doctorate, and its motor mouth chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, l he man who dragged Congress into this quagmire with his relentless attempt to overthrow Capt Amarinder Singh is spending time in jail.