By Sushil Kutty
Political parties have been told by the Punjab Pollution Control Board to keep the noise level to the permissible limit. Notices have been issued to a few bombastic politicians. That said, the PPCB diktat matches Navjot Singh Sidhu’s frame of mind. The volatile Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief has been quiet after Rahul Gandhi named Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi the chief ministerial face of the Congress. The state ruled by the Congress now is going for polling on February 20 with the big question who is the next CM of this border state Channi or the AAP nominee Bhagwant Mann. Can PM NarenfraModi spring a surprise?
So, it is that Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has in him the laughter to bring down the house, is nowadays quieter than a church mouse even as Channi’s rivals hush-hush about Channi’s church connection. It could boomerang, electorally.
The “der aaye durusth aaye” Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to raise the electoral pitch with a visit to Punjab on Valentine’s Day, hoping against hope no political analyst worth his analysis would dismiss him and the BJP with a “there is no love lost between Modi and the Punjab electorate.” Just to be on the safe side, Modi sought votes for “NDA”, steadfastly refusing to mention “BJP.”
The last time the Prime Minister was in Punjab, his SPG-motorcade was brought to an abrupt halt atop a Ferozepur flyover from where he couldn’t see what was happening beyond his nose. Forced to a U-turn, Modi thanked Channi for ensuring he returned alive to Bhatinda airport, once again strengthening the belief that if he hadn’t chosen politics, Modi would have excelled in theatrics.
Now, the Supreme Court is seized of the matter and Channi has given his police a clean chit. Also, the Punjab farmers didn’t have to shout to be heard because the BJP was smarting. Modi did make a passing reference to the security lapse on his Valentine’s Day visit to Punjab, but his attention was focused on giving the NDA a “majority in Punjab.”
The NDA in Punjab is Capt. Amarinder Singh plus the BJP and add to them erstwhile SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa to give the impression that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the Sikhs’ back. Modi asserted the NDA will come to power in “Nava Punjab” March 10, 2022, and then the “nasha” scourge plaguing Punjab will disappear overnight — Modi’s promise to Punjab’s mothers.
Modi wasn’t even thinking of Channi when he offered the moms of Punjab the offer to serve Punjab with a “double-engine Sarkar” for the next five years. In your service, he emphasized. Modi also seemed quite unaware of AAP’s chief ministerial face Bhagwant Singh Mann, who AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal says will sweep clean the polls.
Kejriwal is confident the AAP will be chosen by Punjab and Channi would never make the cut like he did with Rahul Gandhi’s hand on his head. Compared to the Congress and NDA, AAP appears to be riding a wave of favour. People want “change” and though this has been the cliché since Barack Obama made the cut in 2008, Punjab could do with some genuine transformation.
That does not necessarily mean a change of guard. While AAP has its fair share of support, Channi and the Congress aren’t bereft of the sentiment. Channi’s short tenure so far has won him appreciation; he’s regarded as cool and composed. Besides, the smooth manner in which he navigated past the Sidhu hurdles has also won him hearts and tons of hardcore fans.
That doesn’t mean, Bhagwant Singh Mann will be bested, a walkover. If AAP sweeps clean the elections, Mann will have the honour of being the first AAP Chief Minister of Punjab, and only the second AAP Chief Minister in AAP’s existence. Mann’s yellow turban is a beacon for the ‘broom-holders’. Even Kejriwal cannot do zilch to Mann and the inevitable if AAP sails in first.
Mann, a comedian-turned-politician, is contesting from the Dhuri assembly constituency in Sangrur, which is in the Malwa belt and any party which clinches ‘Malwa’ goes on to rule Punjab. The battle royal in Malwa is between the Congress and the AAP and the consensus is that both are pitching high though there’s the sneaking feeling that the AAP probably has the better chance.
The AAP, it is believed, has the advantage of the “Jatta vote” against the “Dalit vote” of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. Rahul Gandhi was lauded for choosing a Dalit CM and deciding to stick with a “Dalit CM.” But the AAP’s stock slogan is “Punjab Bachauna Hai”, and that, says AAP, can only be with AAP and Mann.
The bottom-line is every party in the fray, including the once very popular Shiromani Akali Dal, is out to “Save Punjab”—from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to ‘Punjab Moms Inc.’ to save their sons from the ‘nasha-menace’ to CM Channi’s promise to lift Punjab out of the “Capt. Amarinder Singh mis-governance hole” with a “full tenure”. Come 20th February, Punjab will go to polls, and then on March 10, will emerge the “saviour”—“Je Punjab BachaunaHai (because Punjab has to be saved).” (IPA Service)