Navjot Sidhu backtracks from taking over the challenging role


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, September 21: Launching a new platform is different from making use of the existing platform as a spring board. Navjot Singh Sidhu just could not take up the challenge of floating a new party after his hyperbolic announcement about a fortnight back. His move was being closely dissected in the framework of his close relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. The Sangh Parivar  would not like the Congress to hit the centre stage from Punjab in February 2017 Assembly elections. The front that was being cobbled up by Sidhu and company would have resulted mainly in the erosion of the Aam Aadmi Party vote bank.

AAP rebel Sucha Singh Chhotepur too has delayed the formal announcement of launching a new party. Time is already running out.

As per the indications available, the AAP leadership might be worried over the situation that has been going out of its hands in Punjab over the last about two months beginning with the release of manifesto for youth but there is so far not much of perceptible shift away from its support base as of today. Much would depend upon the capacity of the Congress in general and its president Capt Amarinder Singh in particular to convince the people this party is the right choice rather than going in for  some kind of adventure. The AAP base rests mainly on anti-incumbency, both against the ruling Akali Dal and a much lesser extent the Congress. Both these parties are saddled with historical baggage and that is their main disadvantage. At the same time, this is also their advantage as they have their own support base.

However, AAP is getting hit in Delhi continuously with 19th of its MLA having been arrested. This is a record in itself for any ruling party. The total strength of Delhi Assembly is 70 with AAP having 67 MLA. It was an unprecedented record victory. However in the earlier Lok Sabha elections, it was Punjab that proved to be the only fertile ground for this party. AAP won four seats from this state although there was little campaigning by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. Two of its MPs have been under suspension for months together. One of them, Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi from Patiala, has already given a call for a broad front. However, there is at present no indication of those on the margins playing any decisive role.

The launching of  Navjot at the start of his political career was from a big platform that is the Bharatiya Janata Party and he had the much needed support from the alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal. The BJP has always won from Amritsar in the Lok Sabha election mainly from the Sikh dominated areas. His own popularity would have been tested only in case he had taken the risk of going in for the new outfit that he talked about but today backtracked.

Novjot in his statement has left the choice open but at the same time, there is a subtle hint. He has stated, “May Punjab, Punjabiat and every Punjabi win”. The fight in the state is turning into Punjabis versus non-Punjabis. The non-Punjabis are the AAP leaders deployed in the state from outside. The candidates are from Punjab. The two lists announced by the party so far are dominated by the Sikhs. It is these outside leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak who have been dictating party affairs in this border state. Now their visibility has decreased. However, the party lacks a credible face and the only leader  who attracts people is  Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann.

Kejriwal would himself fill that void when he takes over the command of the campaign.

AAP organized an impressive rally at Bagha Purana to release farmers manifesto but then the rallies are no indicator of the grassroots reality. Congress is to make it a big show at Moga sometime in the first week of October. The rally would be addressed by Rahul Gandhi.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is perhaps the best at organising big rallies. The rallies that Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed in Bihar were massive. However, such shows did not translate into votes.

In case of Punjab, lesser the better as in a tight contest, even 2000 votes would make all the difference in a number of constituencies. Navjot Sidhu has opted out sensing the situation.


Jagtar Singh


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