Punjab 2017 Assembly polls: With Amarinder at the helm, Congress hopes for resurgence in state
Will Captain Amarinder Singh deliver the Congress an electoral victory in Punjab? While rival political parties have been dismissive about the change of guard in the party, the mood in the Congress camp is optimistic.
Chandigarh: Will Captain Amarinder Singh deliver the Congress an electoral victory in Punjab? While rival political parties have been dismissive about the change of guard in the party, the mood in the Congress camp is optimistic. It senses a strong anti-incumbency sentiment building up against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government and believes it can win comfortably under a capable leadership. Partap Singh Bajwa, the earlier president of the state unit, didn’t fit the bill. The state goes to the polls in 2017.
Speaking to Firstpost, Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira said the appointment of Amarinder had been done at the right time. “This move of the party high command has given a big boost to the Punjab Congress ahead of the 2017 elections. Everyone knows that Amarinder is the most popular leader of Punjab. The Akalis and the BJP are in disarray and the AAP is still to make a mark. In such a situation, there is no doubt at all that we will form the next government in Punjab,” he added.
With Bajwa at the helm of affairs in Punjab as party president, Amarinder had little leeway in party matters. It didn’t help that his equations with the former were not healthy. He had been urging the party high command for a change of guard. The former chief minister finally had his way. This is the third time the Maharaja of Patiala will be president of the Congress unit. His earlier stints were between 1998-2002 and 2010-2013. The party has appointed Ambika Soni in charge of the party's campaign committee in a balancing act.
Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Chaudhary expressed total confidence in the leadership of Amarinder. “You must have seen the all-round positive reactions in the state on the appointment of Amarinder Singh. On social media too there has been an overwhelming response to this most positive development in the state. The entire party and all the workers are totally upbeat now. The Akalis and the BJP will get buried in the strong anti-incumbency wave,’’ he said.
The Akalis in partnership with the BJP have ruled the state for two consecutive terms now, but several recent events have shown erosion of people’s confidence in them. Two of the major vote banks of the Akalis — farmers and the Panthak — seem to be slipping away from their control, which could prove dear in the coming days. Recently Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal faced black flags from farmers at the Khadoor Sahib in Tarn Taran during a Sangat Darshan programme. Hundreds of farmer activists raised anti-CM slogans and also staged a dharna over the issue of a low MSP to basmati growers.
The SAD-BJP government has got into a series of problems over the past few months. While its performance has been generally shoddy in the second term, it has also drawn criticism for its mishandling of issues like the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the controversial pardon to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and its subsequent withdrawal, and the growing drug problem in the state.
The Congress sees the developments as a positive sign. While it is wary of the growing popularity of AAP, it feels the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is yet to build a strong base among people. Moreover, it faces the problem of factionalism. With better organisational skills and experience in electoral politics, Congress leaders feel they will be placed on solid ground in 2017. It has also buried the chronic problem of factional fights with the elevation of Amarinder.
Badal told the media that be it Amarinder or somebody else it would not make any difference to his party. “Amarinder’s return as the state Congress chief will not affect Akali Dal’s prospects in the 2017 Assembly elections. Our poll plank will be peace, development and prosperity. I hope he will play a positive role in establishing peace and brotherhood among people in Punjab for which we are also trying hard,’’ Badal added. He also described Amarinder as a 'chronic turncoat' whom the people had mistrusted and rejected in the last two Assembly elections.
Meanwhile, Manpreet Badal, chief of People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) is hoping for a grand alliance on the lines of Bihar against the SAD-BJP combine. “In case there is an alliance of the opposition parties in the next elections, the PPP will wholeheartedly support it,’’ he said.
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