Punjab political discourse sliding down to gutter level politics


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 29: He should be aggressive  but his strategic advisers seem to have prevailed upon former Punjab chief minister and state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh to be milder at the time when the political discourse is sliding down to gutter level politics. Punjab has seen the worst since the eighties but the election campaign has never touched this low. This is the first time that an effective third dimension has been added in Aam Aadmi Party to the traditional bipolarity that used to characterize the state political discourse despite concerted efforts by Akali Dal stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Manpreet Singh Badal when both of them rebelled against Parkash Singh Badal at different times.

Character assassination is different from political attacks. AAP had come on the scene as a party with an alternative model of politics, a party swearing by morality and ethics. However, its main weapon now seems to be the politics of character assassination. It might suit the party at the current juncture in Punjab but this approach has muddied the political stream like never before. Badal and Tohra had turned bitterest of adversaries at one time but by and large they avoided character assassination. Manpreet too remained moderate while fighting against his one-time mentor. Not anymore.

Capt Amarinder Singh is striking a sober chord at the time when it is a do or die battle for all the three contestants. Earlier, he used to be aggressive. This time, it is the people who are seething with anger and Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal is determined to change the situation by using every card. He can’t afford to be on the defensive.

It was Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia who gave out a loud a clear signal that the Akali Dal would fight the adversaries at every level. The occasion was the appearance of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal in a defamation case filed by Majithia in an Amritsar court. AAP made it a show of strength. Majithia was already prepared for that to effective confront AAP strategy. Of course, the real situation this time would emerge only when elections are announced.

AAP now seems to be fighting the election on one point agenda rather than  presenting some long term development strategy for this sensitive border state whose political discourse is different from all other states in the country. Punjab does not need cosmetic surgery but structural changes. The Narendra Modi government is continuing with the same policies that have landed farm and small scale industrial sector into crisis.

Punjab too is the victim of these policies and worst at that as here the story is different. None has tried to give the answer as to why the steel town of Mandi Gobindgarh and Batala famous for its foundry industry have turned into ghost towns. None in the government or the political parties has come out with a blues print to avert suicides in the farm sector. It was Punjab that provided the much needed food security to the country at the moist critical juncture and  its farmers are now paying the cost.

It is in this context that the political parties should desist from coming down to gutter level as the state can’t afford further deterioration for the reasons that make its political discourse different. It was Amarinder who used to talk of sending Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir to jail in 2002 and he did it. However, the Badals bounced back.

He has now rightly identified four sectors that need immediate attention. For both the Congress and AAP, drug problem is very acute but Sukhbir would not like to admit it. Now there is official data to prove that others states are far ahead of Punjab. But then it is the perception of people in the state  that matters. Punjab perhaps is the state with highest number of per capita chemist shops. This has been going on for years. There would be no qualified doctor in say cluster of five or six villages but one can find twenty chemist shops. It is synthetic drug ICE known as “chitta” that is the latest addition, besides heroin.

Then there is unemployment and providing quality education and health care. Capt Amarinder Singh’s Finance Minister for some time Surinder Singla used to vehemently argue against the role of state in education and health sectors and he would advocate privatization. Capt Amarinder Singh is now on the right track but he would have to be a little more aggressive.

It appears that Amritsar today provided the trailer of the bitter fight ahead but the political stream need not be muddied. Punjab has been known for clean politics as against the present gutter level politics.


Jagtar Singh


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