Captain Amarinder Singh's Entry Into The BJP — Predictable But Problematic
The move is probably aimed at giving a respectable exit to the Captain in the twilight of his political career.
But if the BJP thinks that it stands to gain anything from the induction of the former Punjab chief minister, it is missing the wood for the trees.
Captain Amarinder Singh is all set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as per multiple news reports.
It wasn’t entirely surprising or unexpected; the survival of the Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) was always under a cloud.
The ageing Captain would have realised eventually the difficulty of managing an organisation and continuing to fight elections on the symbol of a weak political force.
That the PLC had contested far less seats in the Punjab assembly elections than their ally, the BJP, was a sign of the state of affairs.
The pretence of any popular support was clearly settled during the 2022 Punjab elections. However, the Captain’s aim was more likely to wreak havoc on the Congress.
To that extent, he was "successful" in achieving the objective.
Having said that, there is a section of people who have always tried to portray the Captain as a nationalist voice.
Singh's rebuff of Justin Trudeau on the question of Khalistani infiltration in the Canadian government is hailed as a clear indicator of his "nation first" agenda.
Similarly, he was keen to be seen siding with security agencies on the question of smuggling arms and drugs via drones from across the border.
A careful recall, however, shows that his record has been far from clear-cut on the question.
The Captain’s Past
While his exit from the Congress after Operation Bluestar in 1984 to join the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) "out of emotion" saw him hobnobbing with the likes of Simranjit Singh Mann, the Captain fiddled on and off with Khalistani extremists and their ideology even after his re-entry into the Congress.
As chief minister, his Vancouver Khalsa Dewan Gurdwara visit and a speech delivered with "Khalistan Zindabad'' in the backdrop raised eyebrows at the time.
The slow pace of investigation on issues like the Behbal Kalan police firing and his apparent disinterest in solving "Panthic" issues also went against him. But, as we saw recently, Singh was quick to divert attention and push the agenda to suit himself.
In the wake of the farm law protests, it is well known that the Captain had diverted the attention of angry farm unions towards Delhi in a bid to reduce anger towards his own government and its perceived ineffectiveness.
The impact of the same was, in fact, well known in the form of the Covid-19 wave in northwestern India. As a data-backed analysis had shown clearly, had the farm protests been contained within Punjab, it would have given northern India a better chance of dealing with the second wave.
But that was not to be, as political manoeuvring was considered more important than larger interests.
Is It The Right Move For The BJP?
This brings us to the question of the BJP's wisdom in going ahead with such a merger.
There are precedents, of course, of how Sikh extremist politicians, who would abuse the national ruling party leadership, often ended up with the mainstream party eventually.
Such a move, of the Captain joining the BJP, would end up sending the wrong signals about the position that the BJP wants to take in Punjab.
In the Sangrur Lok Sabha by-election that saw Simranjit Mann win, the BJP had polled more votes than even the SAD (Badal), while Congress' vote had slid further.
Until recently, the Congress was seen as a force to reckon with, one that represented nationalist interests despite the contradictions. That space stands empty now, as people don't see the Congress doing that anymore and also see the party trying to play the old-style politics of division.
Leaders like Captain Singh were rejected by all inclinations, and so to accommodate him in the party unit raises questions yet again on the strategy that the BJP wants to adopt in Punjab.
Conflicting signals from the ground and the top leadership also sends the wrong signal to the cadre which, for once, was raring to go.
Embarrassing signals like Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the head of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas dera, who faced the Enforcement Directorate raids earlier, was proof of more of the same old rejected politics being visualised as the way forward by the BJP.
Clearly, better and clearer guidance is needed within the party, as was seen in the case of the induction of the likes of Sunil Jakhar, who retain popularity and respect among the masses.
The likely entry of Captain Amarinder Singh, and the merger of his party, into the BJP may be touted as a big move. However, there seems to be little benefit from it.
For all we see, this move seems more like giving a respectable exit to the Captain in the twilight of his political career and providing him with a decent retirement.
However, if the BJP feels that it stands to gain anything from the induction of the Captain, it is missing the wood for the trees when it comes to Punjab.
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