By Sushil Kutty
The police of AAP-ruled Punjab arrests an opposition Congress MLA and it’s just the tip of trouble roiling the AAP and the Congress. The big question haunting the two parties is, however, will their spats at the Punjab state level harm the INDI-Alliance of which both are constituents and which so far has not been drastically affected much to the relief of the top leadership of both parties. The need to stick together for the larger good of the opposition INDI-Alliance is top of their mind and that is for now paramount.
So much so, the question of which opposition party’s leader will be INDIA’s “PM Face” has also been set side. Trouncing and removing Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power beats everything else to second place. For the time being, and till after the 2024 general elections, each party signatory to the INDI-Alliance bloc, is sworn to help steer the opposition coalition to power. There isn’t any second thought or second way.
The Aam Aadmi Party might sound unapologetic about flare-ups in Punjab but both AAP and Congress are in INDIA and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal is unequivocal that AAP will remain dedicated to the INDIA cause come what may. And while the Congress MLA’s arrest did pose problems, the arrest was impossible to avoid, the circumstances were such.
Kejriwal, however, asserted that “AAP will follow INDIA dharma” till the INDIA objectives were met. That being said, the INDIA constituents could do with a little honey in their behaviour with each other. The political parties of INDIA must be aware of the slow build-up of confidence in the INDIA fold. There is still a ways to go before general elections 2024. Nothing in the interregnum should throw a spanner in the INDIA works.
At the same time, the sound and fury at the state level should not affect the larger opposition unity. The most bitter are the Punjab state Congress leaders whose bitterness has its roots in the severe drubbing the Congress sustained at the hands of the AAP in the assembly elections. The brute majority of the Bhagwant Mann government is a constant reminder of the hammering the Congress got at the hands of the AAP.
And not every Punjab Congress leader is a Navjot Singh Sidhu to forget and forgive. Sidhu says the fight is to replace the Prime Minister and not replace any Chief Minister. But then, Sidhu has had his medicine and has mellowed from the firebrand that he used to be before being sent to count bars.
That being said, it’s the Congress high command which is keeping the Punjab state Congress wing on a leash. The 2024 General Elections will see Punjab convert into one helluva Congress-AAP battleground and unless AAP and the Congress come to an agreement on seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha elections, things might go awry. Also leave a bitter taste on the eve of General Elections 2024. No party of the INDIA bloc wants that.
If the AAP and the Congress come to an understanding, the BJP will be scavenging for leftovers in Punjab. But has the Congress forgotten the assembly elections drubbing when it got buried in the AAP landslide? The INDIA dharma notwithstanding, the grand old party would love to return the favour with interest – compound.
That the AAP doesn’t trust the Congress and the Congress does not trust the AAP is old news and to think that the Congress had a hand in the AAP rising in the early days of AAP. The Aam Aadmi Party would not have got a start in Delhi without the Congress lending a shoulder to lean. Those early days are pale memories.
Today’s AAP fancies itself a worthy replacement for the Congress. And, but for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s obduracy to stick on come hell or high water, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi wouldn’t have given the time of the day to each other unless it was a matter of life and death, which is what it is at this point in time – a matter of life and death for the INDI-Alliance, to every leader of every party sworn to keep INDIA intact.
So what if either of the parties see each other as unbelievably untrustworthy. There is no room left for speculation on the larger aim of the INDI-Alliance. The Congress MLA’s arrest in Punjab should not have become a matter of contention. Following the Bihar Caste Census, more opposition-ruled states are likely to carry out caste censuses and Punjab will be one of them at the forefront.
The findings of the Bihar Caste Census has put the scare in the BJP-led NDA ahead of a clutch of assembly elections. Similar caste censuses in more states, including in Punjab, will have a bearing on General Elections 2024, too. The AAP and the Congress should look forward to such enterprises instead of squandering time, energy and resources fighting each other. Putting the INDIA house in order comes first.
Arvind Kejriwal can help by using police at his command to serve INDIA interests. Beating the BJP in Delhi should be an INDIA goal. And here, too, an AAP-Congress understanding would be of great help to INDIA as a whole. Only an INDIA triumph will free Delhi and the Delhi Police from the clutches of the Centre and deal a death blow to the Shah Ordinance. Sealing an AAP-Congress understanding will help both parties in Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat. (IPA Service)