AAP’s Punjab Challenge

Managing the economic distress with huge debt liabilities left by previous Congress government would not be an easy task
Khatkar Kalan Village (Punjab), Mar 16: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) National Convener Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia attends the oath-taking ceremony of party leader Bhagwant Mann as Punjab Chief Minister. [Representational Image]
Khatkar Kalan Village (Punjab), Mar 16: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) National Convener Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia attends the oath-taking ceremony of party leader Bhagwant Mann as Punjab Chief Minister. [Representational Image] ANI

It was in 1977 when public anger was at its extreme against late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Hence Janta Party candidate Raj Narain defeated her by a margin of 55,200 votes from Rae Barelli besides wiping off the entire Congress.

Now a replica has happened in Punjab after a gap of 45 years when Aam Adami Party led by Arvind Kejriwal has brought a Tsunami change by decimating Congress which can be attributed to complete frustration and anger of general public, cutting across the part line.

Public mood was so much against mighty feudals and other stalwarts that voters heaped humiliation on them by ensuring defeat in their respective assembly segments.

And big names included patriarch like Parkash Singh Badal, Maharaja of Patiala, captain Amrinder Singh, Ex CM, Rajender Bhattal, CM Charanjit Singh Channi, state Congress Chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sukhbir Sing Badal, Manprit Barar, financial specialist and ex minister etc.

A landslide victory of AAP is embedded in the high expectations of people of Punjab who have been doled out soups of tall promises which may be extremely difficult as state government has inherited public debt and loan liabilities of Rs 2.82 lakh crore which may go upto Rs 3.73 crore by 2024-25.

Secondly, BJP led government in Delhi may not be very kind to AAP government hence it will add to the woes of Kejriwal.

Thirdly, AAP would like to make Punjab free of drug menace, and ensure rehabilitation of victims which was promised in 2017 elections also. But it will not be easy to take on drug mafia which got patronage during previous successive regime.

Fourthly, 24-hour free electricity in Punjab will have direct bearing on ailing economy of the state though AAP will have to fulfill this commitment at all costs.

Finally, besides other poll sops, new chief minister, Bhagwant Singh Mann, will be under obligation to provide corruption free administration and political system which seems a fairy tale unless practically achieved.

Kejriwal’s expansion at national level

AAP had a massive win in Punjab, one of the most progressive states in India, which may help it in retaining power in Delhi assembly elections. AAP, as a regional party, has won second important border state which clears the deck to position itself as one of the contenders at national level.

The party may plan to project Arvind Kejriwal as acceptable face of combined opposition to take on BJP in 2024 parliamentary polls. AAP has entered Goa also which shows its ambition to expand to other states. The spectacular victory in Punjab, a border state, could encourage Kejriwal to focus on Gujarat which is going for polls in Nov. 2022.

AAP has already made considerable gains in the civic elections in Gandhinagar and Surat last year which will encourage the party cadres. But it will be an uphill task for AAP to handle corruption, menace of drugs, and financial distress; besides tall promises made by Kejriwal during the election.

Congress’ suicidal path

Congress party has been decimated in all five states, and it lost Punjab, thereby squeezing it to Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the entire country though it is still a coalition partner in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand.

In Punjab, Congress was on self destruction spree and Congress leaders are at their best when they want to defeat each other which had been witnessed during this crucial assembly elections.

Navjot Singh Sidhu played this role with full authority who was beyond the control of even high command that had anointed him as state party chief despite strong objections from former chief minister, captain Amrinder Singh who left the party in disgust and joined BJP to face anger of farmers who were upset with centre due to farm laws.

The defeat of sitting chief minister, Channi, and Sidhu, besides several senior leaders reflected that people disapproved infighting, inapt handling of Punjab party affairs by high command, maltreatment to two time chief minister, Amrinder Singh; hence opted for change.

Congress is in disarray in Uttrakahnd also hence party has lost badly to BJP and its chief ministerial candidate failed to save his seat.

The indecisiveness of high command and demoralisation of party cadres spoiled its chances in Goa and Manipur which will need urgent attention and rectification.

(K.S.Tomar is national columnist and political analyst)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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