Diverting political discourse in Punjab from personality politics by reinventing regionalism

Dharamvira Gandhi

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, September 23: Punjab has been the victim of rhetoric and personality based politics for the last more than two decades and the effort now is give a new direction to the political discourse by re-inventing regionalism with holistic and long-term approach to deal with the crisis that is deepening every day. The man who is determined to turn the tide is AAP rebel MP Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi. The goal is not just the February 2017 election which according to him, would be just one event. Dr Gandhi has always rebelled against establishment  while advocating alternative model of development with active participation by people and that too through practice.

It may be mentioned that this was the model that the Akali Dal advocated for years but that also had the Panthic tinge. Howevcer, the party has disowned that politics with its interests getting aligned with the ruling elite and the Indian corporate sector.

Dr Gandhi has convened a meeting of like-minded people in Chandigarh on Sunday, September 25 to have free exchange of views  to carry forward this agenda.

Presently, the political discourse is revolving around personalities that include Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Deputy Chief Minister son Sukhbir Singh Badal, state Congress chief and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Aam Aadmi Party convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The Congress campaign has been Amarinder centric so far like the Modi centric campaign during the Lok Sabha election. It is only now that there is slight shift.  Both the Badals continue to be the face of the Akali Dal. It is high time that the Akali Dal campaign is more Sukhbir centric keeping in view the fact that 60 per cent of the electorate are upto 40 years of age. AAP  is waiting for Kejriwal to take over command after it suffered several setbacks during the last few months. The situation is still to stabilize as there continue to be signals of resentment by some leaders despite their denials.

It is only AAP that has come out with two installments of manifesto-for the youth  and the farmers. However, what is missing is larger narrative and pragmatic approach. Punjab has been the victim of rhetoric for too long. This has to change. AAP attracted people as they have been fed up both with the Akali Dal and the Congress. However, the performance of AAP in Delhi has raised questions about its approach as unlike Delhi, Punjab is both sensitive as well as strategic state.

According to Dr Gandhi, issues have been missing from Punjabpolitical discourse and his effort is to trigger issue based politics. The solution is the federal structure in letter and spirit. It may be mentioned that federalism has been part of the Punjabpolitical discourse for years and the Akali Dal even paid the cost by getting dubbed as anti-nationals. However, the party has never been sincere as it never initiated even debate when in power. This issue otherwise continues to be part of the party manifestos over the years. The effort is to reinvent  and revisit regionalism agenda in the framework of changing Indian political discourse and the impact of globalization.

The Akali Dal has undergone total metamorphosis during the last ten years as autonomy is now missing even within the party that has become personality centric. As Dr Gandhi puts it, the Akalis have disowned Punjab and its people due to getting the interests of its leadership getting aligned to the ruling elite and the corporate sector. In this context, he also talks of the degeneration in the Tamil Nadu model of regionalism where both the main parties have become personality based.

India is characterized by unity in diversity but the politics of the ruling party at the centre is now focused on hegemonisation that is detrimental in the long run.

There are certain problems that are Punjab specific like total degeneration of police and civil administration due to politicization. A nurse was thrashed at a Bagha Purana hospital yesterday by an Akali sarpanch and his son. This is not a case in isolation but symptom of the deeper malaise.

“Our effort is to come to the rescue of orphaned Punjab”, says Dr Gandhi. Punjab needs long term treatment. The physician is hopeful.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

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