Navjot Singh Sidhu triggers fresh tremors in Punjab political matrix

Navjot sidhu

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 18: Both Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and state Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh being active players for decades should have  realized by now that this time, it is more important for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to block the revival of the Congress from Punjab.

This argument is based upon the assumption that the chances of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance retaining power in the state are bleak. It is a different matter that political Sensex in the state is also extremely volatile with fortunes of political parties  being highly sensitive to ever changing political events that dictate the political discourse. Punjab political discourse is considered to be event based. The decision of cricketer-turned politician-turned national entertainer Navjot Singh Sidhu to resign from his nominated seat in the Rajya Sabha and the membership of the Bharatiya Janata Party has resulted in utter turmoil in political stock market.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab incharge Sanjay Singh, while welcoming this decision in the evening, has already come on record saying  his switch over was now just a formality.

AAP had been looking for a credible face to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate or at least give the impression that the party has such a face. Despite leaders like state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann having worked hard to strengthen the party and make it formidable force, the lack of such a face had been part of political talk in the state. Manpreet Singh Badal at one stage was under pressure from his NRI friends to join AAP but he was blocked by some state leaders. He had  kept the option open to join the Congress at that time.

Even at the cost of repetition, it is pertinent to reiterate that AAP was the by-product of anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare. This movement was designed by the New Delhi based Vivekananda Foundation of which now National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was the most prominent face. This foundation is linked to the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh Parivar’s agenda is to wipe out the Congress that continues to be the main threat to its divisive agenda. The Congress has clearly defined ideological position unlike AAP. AAP’s main thrust has been on providing corruption free and efficient governance that the party has successfully demonstrated in Delhi. However, in a country that is characterized by diversity, every party has to take ideological position. It is the Congress that continues to forcefully resist divisive agenda of the RSS. This ultra-Right organisation has no problem with the Akali Dal as it considers the Sikhs to be part of the broader Hindu family.

The move by Sidhu to re-position himself has to be assessed in this framework. AAP confronting the BJP is not that significant as this party blocking the revival of the Congress. In case the Congress manages to stage a comeback in Punjab, it can certainly hope for revival at the national level.

But then the contest is triangular and Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal too is a fighter and at stake is his own political future. He can’t afford a set back to his political career at this stage. However, presently, the people’s mood is for change.

It would be safe to assess Sidhu’s likely repositioning in this framework and the statements of Sanjay Singh and Chhotepur welcoming the development.

His joining AAP has both positive and negative aspects. AAP has already been under criticism for ignoring old workers. The people who started this movement, it was not just a political outfit, are nowhere in the party hierarchy. The people who joined much later  and had little political experience were given coveted positions. This would sharpen inner-party contradictions in case Sidhu is imposed. Paratroopers face this problem in every party.

The positive aspect is that AAP gains at the political level as Punjab February 2017 election would also revolve around political personalities.

Sidhu can launch much sharper political attack on Badals as compared to Capt Amarinder Singh. This time the people expected him to be the earlier Capt Amarinder Singh in his highly aggressive avatar but now he is trying to be different going by his  strategic advisers. Sukhbir has to defend his position fiercely. The people would prefer a leader who can take him head on. The manifestos would have little importance in this clash. AAP’s youth manifesto is already in the din of the Panthic discourse.


Jagtar Singh


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