Chandigarh, December 2: At one time, they were the worst of enemies. Today on stage, state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh casually asked Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal at media house organised summit in the national capital as to how long he was in jail. The chief minister at that time was Capt Amarinder Singh.
This was in response to a comment by Sukhbir that maintaining the true Punjabi tradition, he touched Capt Amarinder Singh’s feet despite the fact that his government jailed him. Capt Amarinder Singh was quick to tell the audience that he arranged supply of diet coke for Sujkhbir in jail. Both were relaxed despite the fact that the political fight in Punjab is turning into a contest between the two of them with the Aam Aadmi Party, that seems to be at the top six months back, getting marginalised due to repeated self-goals.
It may be mentioned that Capt Amarinder Singh and now Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would not be seen at the same function together, such used to be their acrimonious relationship. One would invariably be leaving when the other would enter. It may be recalled that both of them were together in Akali Dal at one time.
AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal slams them for being in league now to defeat his party. Sukhbir articulated everything when he said he would touch Amarinder’s feet even during the worst of relations between them. It is that bitterness that harmed Punjab.
Both of them held the view that AAP would not succeeded in emerging as the winner in Punjab.
Today both Sukhbir and Amarinder were frank and their body language emitted the signals that were positive, attacking each other but still maintaining dignity, not even raising their voices.
Amarinder had rather word of praise for Sukhbir saying unlike his father Parkash Singh Badal, he is known for keeoping his words. Sukhbir reciprocated the gesture saying it is Capt Amarinder Singh who can keep the Congress together.
In the assessment of Capt Amarinder Singh, Akali Dal would get less than 20 seats, less than AAP with Congress forming the government. He ruled out post-poll alliance with AAP saying the Congress would be in comfortable majority.
Amarinder rather challenged him to a bet asserting it is the Congress that would form the government. Sukhbir was quick saying Amarinder would just vanish after the defeat of the Congress as even otherwise, he is difficult to be traced. It was a light talk as Amarinder said his two passions were gardening and writing military history for which he usually retire to his house in the hills. He commented it is Sukhbir who loves going places all over the globe.
In Sukhbir’s calculation, the Akali Dal-BJP combine would have about 70 seats in its kitty with the Congress score varying from 35-40 seats. AAP would be poor third getting less than 10 seats. He felt AAP could further go down.
Sukhbir utilised the platform the dispel the wrong perception of 70 per cent of the Punjab youth being druggists quoting results of the drug test conducted during recruitment to police and the army. He nailed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for misquoting a survey conducted by the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. This survey was done on druggists and 70 per cent of them were found to be young people. This is different from saying that 70 per cent of the youth are druggists. He also fully defended Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia who has been under attack from AAP on the issue of drugs.
Amarinder was frank enough to share the process of selection of candidates in the Congress and the existence of the high command culture while in case of Akali Dal, is is Badal family affair.
Amarinder disclosed that the first list would be released on December 4.
An interesting question was about the contest in Punjab being between royalty and dynasty and both of them scored well. Sukhbir made it clear that the Akali Dal, the second oldest party in the country, was the people’s party and it is the Akalis that understands the psyche of the people in the state.
It was not the spoken word that was important as they shared the stage for the first time but an interaction that restored the earlier Punjab tradition of maintaining harmonious relationship despite being political rivals. This bitterness had been introduced in Punjab’s political culture when Beant Singh took over as the chief minister in 1992 amidst boycott by the Shiromani Akali Dal. That phase of animosity now seems to be over.