Let Hope be the agenda for Punjab Assembly election February 2017


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, October 9: Agenda of Hope is not to be confused with that of Punjab Bachao. The developments during the last about two months raise certain apprehensions. Without sounding too pessimistic, the February 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab could be the last chance to put this once the most advanced state back on the rails. However, the negativity that is taking over the poll campaign does not portend well. The poll campaign is getting reduced to the same rut of vilification. The people in 1996 were shown the dream of turning this militancy ravaged state into California. The situation has only further deteriorated.

Both the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress at one stage had   manifested competitive concern for suicides by the farmers. AAP has come out with separate manifesto for farmers that  does not spell out any strategic shift in the policy framework away from populism to which both the Akali Dal and the Congress have been resorting to all these years since 1997  election. Congress and Akali Dal might come out with more populist programmes. Suicides by the farmers  is of no more trouble these leaders.

AAP has been hit hard due to split and the party is getting further damaged due to opposition to several of the candidates announced  so far. A total of 61 candidates have been announced with many of them being turncoats and rank opportunists. The selection of these candidates so far  gives only one signal and that even this party is no different from others. The perception of AAP being dictatorial is taking away its sheen as the party of hope.

One interesting aspect of the situation is that once sworn enemies, Capt Amarinder Singh and  Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal are coming under attack for having tacit understanding. It is in this framework that the application moved by the vigilance in a Mohali court to withdraw the case against Capt Amarinder Singh relating to the Amritsar Improvement Trust is coming under attack from AAP.

It may be recalled that it was  the government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh that had filed corruption case against Badal, his son  Sukhbir Singh Badal and others and they were sent to jail by the court before they were bailed out after about a week. That was Sukhbir’s first jail experience. Earlier, going to jail during Akali agitations used to be a qualification thousands of people have been going to jails as part of these agitations.

Capt Amarinder Singh became the target when Badal replaced him in 2007. The Amritsar Improvement Trust scam was raised by Congress MLA Bir Devinder Singh in the Assembly during Amarinder regime itself. He was unseated in September 2008 on the basis of the report of the Assemby that was constituted in December 2007. The Supreme Court quashed his unseating in 2010. It was an indication that the case might fall in the court. However, it was the Punjab and Haryana High Court that ordered re-investigation in December 2014. The vigilance bureau had  already filed the challan in this case. It is  the reinvestigation that led to vigilance finally moving the court to withdraw the case.

It was this politics of sending each other to jail that ended interaction at the social level among the political leaders that was unprecedented. It was for the first time that the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were not on speaking terms at the social level. Such was the situation despite the fact that Satyajit Singh, father of Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur, now Union minister, has been very close to Amarinder.

It is only recently that they started interacting at the social level ending years of bitterness.

Now both AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and Amarinder are “promising” people to send members of the Badal family behind bar. Such politics did not benefit Punjab earlier and the political discourse should not be allowed to be reduced to this agenda once again. Punjab needs total transformation at the socio-economic levels.

Punjab is  a state where bureaucracy is by and large corrupt and apathetic and it is the legacy of long period of president’s rule during militancy. The transformation would have to start by turning this system productive and sensitive. This can’t be done through negative campaigning or competitive populism. This election could be the last chance to redeem Punjab and hence it should be fought on the agenda of hope.



Jagtar Singh


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