Punjab Dashboard: Alliance Between Congress And AAP Looks Increasingly Difficult

Swarajya Staff

Feb 23, 2023, 09:41 AM | Updated Sep 25, 2023, 10:47 PM IST

Navjot Singh Sidhu (L), Arvind Kejriwal (centre) and Bhagwant Mann
Navjot Singh Sidhu (L), Arvind Kejriwal (centre) and Bhagwant Mann

The partnership between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) within the newly established Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) appears to be deteriorating.

The latest development involved the Congress taking on the AAP government in Punjab after Governor Banwarilal Purohit asked for details of the utilization of a Rs 50,000 crore loan from the state government.

Alok Sharma, Congress leader, reacted to Governor Purohit's letter to the Punjab government by seeking answers from the AAP-led administration regarding the Rs 50,000 crore debt.

Before this, Punjab Cabinet Minister Anmol Gagan Maan has unequivocally stated that there will be no electoral alliance between the ruling AAP and the Congress within the state.

August 7

In the ongoing tussle with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, the state's governor Banwarilal Purohit has warned Mann against making derogatory remarks about him during the last assembly session in June.

Purohit has also warned that he will file a criminal complaint against Mann for defaming the governor's image if he continues to make similar insinuations outside of the House.

During an interview with Hindustan Times on Friday (August 4), Purohit expressed his displeasure with Mann's defamatory speech in the assembly.

Mann used derogatory language, referring to Purohit as someone who "keeps writing letters" and called him "idle." Purohit emphasized that such behavior is unacceptable.

Purohit acknowledged that the chief minister has certain legal protections within the House. However, he made it clear that if Mann continues to make derogatory remarks about him outside of the assembly, he will not hesitate to file a criminal complaint against him.

Purohit specifically mentioned that Mann could be booked under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to assaulting the reputation of the President or governor with the intent to compel or restrain the exercise of lawful power.

The governor emphasized that any attempt to pressure or intimidate him would result in criminal action against Mann. He stated that the governor cannot be defamed.

The chief minister, Purohit reminded, must be mindful of his language and refrain from baseless abuse. He added that a governor holds significant power.

The AAP government and Purohit have been in conflict for the past year over various contentious issues.

The governor has accused Mann of failing to respond to official communications requesting administrative information. The recent point of contention was the special assembly session in June, during which four bills were passed, including one that stripped the governor of the authority to appoint vice-chancellors to state universities.

Purohit deemed the session "patently illegal," citing violations of Constitutional provisions, a stance disputed by the AAP government.

Purohit accused the Mann government of violating Section 167 of the Constitution, which states that the chief minister is obligated to provide any administrative information requested by the governor.

He mentioned that even the Supreme Court had advised them in March to respect this Constitutional provision. Purohit also shared that he had written 10 to 15 letters to the chief minister, but received either no response or incomplete ones.

The governor expressed his frustration with the Mann government, stating that they oppose the Constitution and become angry whenever he requests information.

Purohit, in response to Mann's claim that he is only accountable to the people of Punjab and not Raj Bhavan, emphasized that all his actions adhere to the Constitution. He reminded Mann that the state should be governed based on the Constitution, not personal whims. Purohit stated, "You're not a king."

When asked about his course of action if the Mann government continues to withhold information, Purohit declared that he will exhaust all possible means and take necessary steps. He mentioned that he is currently moving in that direction and intends to send a detailed report to the President, allowing her to decide the appropriate course of action.

August 4

Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president, dismissed the possibility of an alliance between Congress and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab.

He pointed out that both parties were part of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at the national level.

Warring even went as far as to say that he would quit politics if any of their leaders became a minister in the AAP government in Punjab.

During a media interaction after a party meeting with senior Congress leaders and district presidents, Warring addressed a query about the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

He criticized Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar for causing confusion by suggesting that one of their leaders would become a minister in the AAP government.

Warring also called for Jakhar to apologize and emphasized that he was not asking Jakhar to quit politics, as he believed he would not, but to refrain from spreading false rumors.

Warring highlighted the unity of 26 like-minded parties at the national level against the BJP, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an effort to "safeguard democracy".

The PPCC Chief clarified that there is no possibility of forming an alliance with the AAP in Punjab.

Warring pointed out that some of the alliance partners in India compete against each other in different states like Kerala, West Bengal, and Punjab.

Warring emphasized that the issues and demands of each state are distinct. In Punjab, the fight is directly against the AAP, and there is no discussion of forming an alliance with them.

He also mentioned that in several other states, the parties that have come together in India are engaged in separate battles on various issues. The media has even reported on seat sharing, but Warring suggested asking those individuals whether they have met Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, or Arvind Kejriwal.

July 26:

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has postponed a scheduled meeting to discuss an amendment to the Anand Marriage Act.

In response, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal criticized the AAP government for interfering in Sikh religious affairs. Badal questioned the government's authority on the matter and called the planned meeting a farce.

Badal firmly rejected the proposed meeting on the Anand Marriage Act, considering it another attempt by anti-Sikh forces to manipulate the Punjab CM and certain Sikh leaders.

He expressed his party's complete opposition to the scheme.

In a written statement, Badal denounced the Punjab government's audacity in assuming the right to represent the Sikh community on matters related to their religious beliefs, Sikh customs, practices, and way of life, including the sacred Anand Karaj. He labeled this action as a blatant act of arrogance.

Badal further asserted that the ostensible purpose of the meeting, which was to recommend amendments to the Anand Marriage Act, is part of an ongoing conspiracy to create confusion among Sikhs regarding their daily religious practices and way of life.

In a statement, Badal expressed his concern about Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann's involvement with non-Sikh and anti-Sikh forces in Delhi, particularly with AAP supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

Badal questioned Mann's intentions, asking if he would allow Sikhs to have a say in their own religious affairs.

According to the Akali Dal chief, only elected religious representatives of the Sikh community have the authority and competence to propose amendments to laws and Acts related to Sikh practices.

Badal raised doubts about AAP's affiliation with Sikhism and questioned whether Kejriwal and his party truly represent the Sikh community. He also questioned their credentials to speak on behalf of the Khalsa Panth regarding religious matters.

In response to Mann's actions, Badal also questioned his eligibility to contest for membership in the SGPC or to seek a religious mandate from the devout Sikh masses for representation.

Badal expressed his reservations about the "Panthic personalities" invited to the scheduled meeting, stating that many of them have been repeatedly rejected by the Sikh community when they contested against candidates from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Badal accused Bhagwant Mann and the anti-Sikh forces of attempting to gain control of the SGPC by using the pretext of telecasting Gurbani from the Golden Temple.

He claimed that their new plan is nothing more than a ploy, as the SGPC is the only competent body, as per the Nehru-Master Tara Singh Pact, to make recommendations regarding religious practices such as the sacred Anand Karaj.

The Chief Minister had planned to hold a meeting on Tuesday (July 25) to discuss an amendment to the Act. Various individuals, including AAP Rajya Sabha member Balbir Singh Seechewal and religious leaders such as Baba Baljit Singh Daduwal, Baba Balbir Singh Buddha Dal, Baba Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale, and Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, were invited for the discussion.

However, the meeting was postponed on Monday evening to a later date.

According to a senior government official, the proposed discussion was solely focused on amending the Anand Marriage Act and had no connection to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

The current Act requires marriages to be registered in the district where the ceremony takes place, but the Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2012 provides three options for registration.

People have been opting for the latter Act, leading to the proposal of allowing the Anand Marriage Act to also offer three registration options.

The postponement of the meeting was attributed to the Chief Minister's involvement in flood-related work and the busy schedules of some participants who were dealing with the aftermath of heavy rainfall in their respective districts.

In a previous incident, Mann had expressed a viewpoint that was perceived as opposing the UCC. He emphasized that every religion has its own unique culture and customs, questioning the necessity of interfering with faiths.

This stance was seen as a departure from the party's position, which had expressed support for the UCC.

Interestingly, Mann's response to UCC was in relation to the implementation of the Anand Marriage Act in Punjab. Although the Act was notified in 2016, it had not been implemented in the state.

Mann had previously stated his determination to get the Act implemented.

The AAP, however, maintained that Mann's stance was not contradictory to the party's position.

A spokesperson for the AAP explained, "The CM has reiterated the party's stance. He has raised concerns about how the Centre plans to implement the UCC. He has advocated for engaging all stakeholders and seeking their input before making a decision."

July 24:

During the ruling BJP-led NDA’s conclave in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, the 87-year-old chief of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt), as the true successor to the late Akali stalwart Parkash Singh Badal.

The SAD (Sanyukt) was the sole party from Punjab that received an invitation from the BJP to attend the NDA’s major gathering on July 18, which took place approximately nine months prior to the Lok Sabha elections.

As one of the oldest allies of the BJP and a founding member of the NDA, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), led by Sukhbir Badal, the son of Parkash Badal, had withdrawn from the NDA in September 2020 to protest against the now-repealed farm laws.

While there were murmurs that the BJP and the Akali Dal might consider renewing their alliance for the 2024 polls, both parties have thus far dismissed the question of an alliance.

The PM's statement has drawn attention to Dhindsa and his breakaway Akali Dal faction, SAD (Sanyukt).

Notably, the presence of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction at the NDA meeting prompted the PM to say, "Today, the true successors of Parkash Singh Badal ji and Balasaheb Thackeray ji are among us."

Punjab BJP president Sunil Jakhar, in an interview with The Indian Express, had stated, "Perhaps the Prime Minister had in mind the original purpose of the alliance between Vajpayee sahib and Badal sahib, and between the BJP and Akali Dal, which was to maintain peace and communal harmony in Punjab. I believe that spirit still prevails today, even though our partner may have separated on certain issues. However, the underlying issue of peace and harmony remains at the forefront of PM Modi's mind and guides any current or future arrangements."

In other reports, Harjit Singh Grewal, a senior leader of the Punjab BJP, stated that Dhindsa had been a close associate of Parkash Singh Badal, and Sukhbir Badal's actions of insulting and expelling him from the party were disrespectful.

Grewal emphasized the importance of honoring the ideology of both Badal and Dhindsa and continuing their legacy. He also urged Sukhbir Badal to respect the ideology of his father. Grewal further emphasized that the Akali Dal is not limited to one family but has emerged from struggles.

Grewal also highlighted the attraction of Punjab's youth, particularly Sikh youth, towards radical ideologies both within Punjab and abroad. To guide this youth in the right direction, Grewal believed it was crucial to strengthen the Shiromani Akali Dal.

He stated that this youth would not align with the BJP or the Congress, but only with the SAD. Grewal acknowledged that the Aam Aadmi Party had initially aligned with the youth but stated that they would now only associate with the SAD.

He further proposed that the SAD could be saved if Sukhbir Badal resigned and a common person took over as party president, although Sukhbir Badal was reluctant to step down.

On the other hand, Daljit Singh Cheema, spokesperson for the SAD, attempted to downplay the situation. He acknowledged that Dhindsa had been a longtime associate of Parkash Badal and had stood by him.

Cheema stated that Prime Minister Modi was aware of this fact. Although Dhindsa is no longer with the Akali Dal, Cheema found it unsurprising that both Badal and Dhindsa were praised by PM Modi.

In an interview, Sunil Jakhar discussed the portrayal of the BJP by its previous ally, the Akali Dal, as a party that did not have Punjab's best interests at heart. Jakhar emphasized the need to dispel this misconception and build a stronger relationship with the people of Punjab.

Dhindsa, an experienced Akali leader, has held several positions in his political career, including four-time MLA, three-time Rajya Sabha member, and one-term Lok Sabha MP. He was among the first Akali Dal leaders to express dissatisfaction with Sukhbir's leadership, holding him responsible for the party's poor performance in the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls.

The party's seat count had dwindled to just 15 out of 117 seats in that election and further dropped to three seats in the 2022 polls.

In 2018, Dhindsa resigned from all his positions within the Akali Dal and later stepped down as the party leader in the Rajya Sabha. He then went on to establish his own political outfit called SAD (Democratic).

In April 2021, Dhindsa's SAD (Democratic) merged with another breakaway faction of the Akali Dal, SAD (Taksali), which had been formed by Ranjit Singh Brahampura. This merger resulted in the formation of SAD (Sanyukt).

Brahampura had also rebelled against Sukhbir's leadership, although he eventually rejoined the Akali Dal in December 2021.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had a longstanding association with Dhindsa. In the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls, the BJP formed an alliance with SAD (Sanyukt) and Punjab Lok Congress (PLC).

The Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) was formed by former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who is now a BJP leader, after he had a falling out with the Congress. In the recent elections, their alliance contested on 116 seats, but only managed to win two seats.

The BJP, on the other hand, fought from 73 seats but also only won two seats. Unfortunately, none of the candidates fielded by Dhindsa's party, which contested 15 seats, or the PLC, which contested 28 seats, were able to secure any seats.

Dhindsa, when asked about the PM's comments about him at the NDA meet, stated that he was considered one of the closest leaders to Sardar Parkash Singh Badal within the Akali Dal. He further mentioned that their differences only arose because of Sukhbir Badal.

July 21:

The frequent granting of parole to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the controversial chief of Dera Sacha Sauda, has caused dissatisfaction among Akal Takht and the SGPC, according to reports.

Raghbir Singh, the Jathedar of Akal Takht, expressed his frustration that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was serving a sentence for rape and murder, has once again been granted a 30-day parole.

Meanwhile, numerous Sikh political prisoners, known as Bandi Singhs, remain imprisoned without any relief, he added.

Notably, Harjinder Singh Dhami, the president of SGPC, also strongly objected to the repeated paroles.

July 12: Amidst speculation that the BJP may revive its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Sunil Jakhar, the new Punjab BJP president, asserted that there is a need for the BJP to shed its "junior ally" mindset in order to establish itself as a strong player in the political landscape of Punjab.

Jakhar urged a change in thinking, stating that positive results would follow if BJP would work independently.

During his address to party leaders and workers after assuming the role of BJP state president, Jakhar acknowledged the discussions surrounding the seat-sharing arrangement between the BJP and its former ally, SAD. In the past, the BJP contested on 23 Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats, while SAD held the majority with 94 Assembly and 10 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab.

However, Jakhar emphasized that the agreement between the two parties was made in 1996-97 and it was time to prioritize the interests of the people of Punjab. He urged the BJP workers to overcome the perception of being a junior partner and to let go of the "junior ally" mindset.

Vijay Rupani, the party's Punjab affairs in-charge, emphasized that the BJP is not a family-oriented party but one that belongs to its dedicated workers. He also stressed the importance of preserving Hindu-Sikh unity in Punjab, which is also a border state.

Outgoing Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma was not present at the event. However, he later tweeted in Punjabi to apologize for his absence due to ill health. Sharma wished the best for the party and hoped that the experience would bring a new direction.

July 3: Party leaders who are aware of the development have indicated that former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Sunil Jakhar is likely to play a major role in the expected revamp of the Punjab unit of BJP.

A senior leader of the Punjab BJP disclosed that Jakhar is expected to become the state BJP chief, based on the feedback received.

Reportedly, the announcement is now just remains a formality.

In May 2022, Jakhar, who was one of the senior-most leaders of Punjab Congress, joined the BJP in the presence of its national party president JP Nadda. He had served as the Punjab Congress chief for four years until he was replaced by Navjot Singh Sidhu in 2021.

Jakhar, 68, a former Lok Sabha MP from Gurdaspur, has twice served as the MLA of Abohar assembly constituency. He is known for his straightforward approach and plain-speaking nature.

From 2012 to 2016, he also held the position of leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly. In 2017, he became the PPCC chief and was appointed as the head of the Campaign Committee for the 2022 polls.

Pathankot MLA Ashwani Sharma, who is credited with keeping the party flag high even during the farmers' agitation against the three controversial laws, will be replaced by him if appointed.

June 29: The proposed implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country has been opposed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), stating that it would adversely impact minorities and tribal communities.

SAD Leader Dr Daljit Singh Cheema announced that the party opposed the UCC for the country and would present its reservations on the issue to the 22nd Law Commission and in Parliament.

He expressed the party's belief that the civil laws in the country, which are influenced by faith, belief, caste, and customs, differ for different religions. He stated, "These should be retained in the interest of safeguarding the social fabric as well as the concept of unity in diversity."

He argued, "We must consider the fact that the constitution makers did not grant UCC the status of fundamental rights. It was placed in the concurrent list and is part of the Directive Principles of the State Policy. Changing this status is not desirable as it will cause friction in society. In addition to minority communities, tribal societies, who have their own personal laws, will be the most affected."

He further added, "If any particular personal law is discriminatory, it can be amended, but forming a UCC for the entire country is not advisable."

According to him, the 21st Law Commission also concluded that the UCC was neither feasible nor desirable. He stated that this recommendation was made after conducting thorough research and gathering feedback from the people.

He further emphasized that there is no need to reconsider this issue by establishing the 22nd commission.

Dr Cheema criticized AAP for supporting the UCC, stating that it has revealed their anti-minorities stance. He added that AAP and its convener Arvind Kejriwal had promised change in Punjab, but are now openly endorsing an issue that will create conflict in civil society.

June 27: On July 1, Anurag Verma, a 1993-batch IAS officer, will take over as the new Chief Secretary of Punjab, succeeding Vijay Kumar Janjua who will retire on June 30. Verma has previously headed various key departments, including Excise and Taxation, Revenue, Rural Development, Home and Justice, and Industries.

He faced competition from two senior officers, Vijoy Kumar Singh and KAP Sinha, in his bid for the post.

Verma's appointment supersedes 10 other IAS officers, including two former Chief Secretaries, Vini Mahajan and Anirudh Tiwari. Seven of these officers, namely Sinha, Tiwari, Anurag Agarwal, A Venu Prasad, Seema Jain, Saravjit Singh, and Raji P Srivastava, will now be designated as Special Chief Secretaries following Verma's appointment.

In a statement to The Tribune, Verma stated that his top priority as Chief Secretary would be to effectively implement people-friendly initiatives at the grassroots level. He also emphasized his focus on strengthening the government's work in the health and education sectors, with transparency and public welfare being his key priorities.

As the new Chief Secretary, Verma is expected to face challenges in his role as Principal Secretary, Personnel and Vigilance, particularly in light of the AAP government's anti-corruption drive. The government has already taken action against allegedly corrupt politicians and is now set to target corrupt bureaucrats as well.

June 26: On Sunday, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann criticised the meeting between the SGPC chief and the SAD leadership.

Criticizing the meeting and commenting on its outcome, he stated that the president of the apex gurdwara body will announce a verdict that has already been decided, which is to oppose the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill.

Notably, the Bill seeks to make the telecast of Gurbani Temple from Golden Temple free of cost.

Mann made this statement a day before the general house session of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, to be held in Amritsar. The committee will decide on its next course of action regarding the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Recently, the Punjab Assembly had passed the bill.

June 21: The Punjab vidhan sabha on Tuesday unanimously passed the
Punjab Police (Amendment Bill), 2023, to appoint the State Director General of Police (DGP) by itself, beyond the purview of the UPSC.

The justification given was that the state legislature has exclusive power to enact laws related to "public order" and "police" as they appear in the "state list" of the Constitution.

Following Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Punjab becomes the third state in the country which has removed the process from the purview of the UPSC.

In December 2017, the Andhra Pradesh government issued an ordinance to select its state police chief without involving the UPSC. The AP Police (Reforms) Act, 2014 was amended in April 2018 to reflect this change.

Similarly, the Telangana assembly amended the Telangana Police (Selection and Appointment of DGP (Head of Police Force) Act in March 2018 to allow the state government to select and appoint the state police chief.

The Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 proposes the formation of a seven-member empanelment committee for the selection of the state police chief. The committee will be headed by a retired chief justice or retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court, according to the state government.

"I am a retired state police chief of Punjab who believes in justice," said the speaker in connection with the bill.

The selection process for the state police chief will consider IPS officers based on their length of service, record, and experience. Eligible officers will be chosen on merit from a pool of candidates.

To be considered for the position, Punjab cadre IPS officers must have been promoted to the rank of DGP and completed at least 30 years of service. Additionally, they must have a minimum residual tenure of six months as of the date of the vacancy.

June 19: The Bhagwant Mann cabinet in Punjab has announced that they will formalise a decision to make the broadcast of Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar free of cost.

The announcement was made through a tweet, where Mann said he believed that Gurbani is a right for everyone and should not come at a cost.

"We are going to make a historic decision tomorrow, as per the demand of all devotees. We will add a new clause in the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 that the transmission of Gurbani from Harminder Sahib will be free for all. No tender required. Tomorrow in the cabinet. On June 20, a vote will be taken in the state assembly," read the tweet.

Notably, The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex body of the Sikhs, has granted the rights to broadcast Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib to the PTC network, which is owned by the politically powerful Badal family. However, making it free is expected to break the network's monopoly and level the ground for all television channels.

"Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann ji should not try to confuse the religious matters of Sikhs... Don't confuse the country for your political interests. Broadcasting of Gurbani is not a normal broadcast, its sanctity and ethics should not be neglected," said SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami in a statement.

The move was labelled "unconstitutional" and a "direct interference in the religious activities of the Sikh community" by Akali Dal's Daljeet Singh Cheema.

"The Sikh Gurdwara Act is under Parliament. The Sikh community has elected the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee through voting to take decisions regarding Guru Ghar under this Act of Parliament. Has the above committee passed any such resolution in this regard? Without that, even the Parliament cannot amend this Act. The Sikh community will never tolerate this work being done under the orders of (Arvind) Kejriwal," read a rough translation of his tweet.

The BJP and Congress, among other opposition parties, have fiercely opposed the change to the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925, arguing that it is a law created by Parliament and cannot be altered by the state government.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Congress questioned how the Punjab government could modify a central act.

Reportedly, however, Navjot Sidhu of the Punjab Congress expressed support for the move, tweeting, "Sarb Sanjhi Gurbaani" …….. which means for one and all with no discrimination ………… this was a cherished desires of millions of sikhs across the globe including me……… commendable effort @BhagwantMann ……… Kudos !!"

Notably, even when Mann had proposed earlier to make the telecast of Gurbani free, it was fiercely opposed by SGPC, Badals and the Akali Dal.

June 16: In a big move, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has designated Giani Raghubir Singh as the new Jathedar of Akal Takht, one of the five seats of power for Sikhs, known as "takhts".

Akal Takht, situated in Amritsar, Punjab, holds the highest authority over temporal matters for the Sikh community.

The SGPC announced that Giani Harpreet Singh, who had been serving as the acting Jathedar of Akal Takht for the past four and a half years, has resigned from his additional responsibilities. However, he will continue to serve as the Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.

"After the SGPC executive committee meeting convened on Friday, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee appointed Giani Raghubir Singh as the new Jathedar of Akal Takht," stated Harjinder Singh Dhami, President of the SGPC.

Regarding the new appointment, Dhami explained, "Raghubir Singh is currently the Jathedar of Kesgarh Sahib. He will assume the position of the new Jathedar of Akal Takht."

Dhami expressed his respect for Giani Harpreet Singh's decision to resign from the additional responsibility of Akal Takht, saying, "Leaving such an important position is not easy, but he has set an example. We hold him in high regard for this. He will continue as the Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib. I have spoken to him over the phone."

In the meantime, Giani Sultan Singh has been appointed as the Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, taking the place of Giani Raghubir Singh.

Notably, Giani Harpreet Singh had earlier faced criticism from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership for attending the engagement ceremony of AAP leader Raghav Chadda. Reportedly, the incident had provided an opportunity for anti-Jathedar factions to intensify their efforts to remove Giani Harpreet Singh from his position.

However, according to reports, the incident was not the primary cause behind the confrontation between him and the SGPC. Some SAD leaders openly expressed their dissatisfaction with Giani Harpreet Singh for not taking action against officials of the Haryana Gurdwaras Management Committee.

Notably, Giani Harpreet Singh had managed to gain the trust of a significant portion of the Sikh community during his tenure as the acting Jathedar.

Spat Between Governor And CM Escalates

The ongoing tussle between Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has escalated once again.

The Governor has demanded that the ruling party provide him with the agenda for the upcoming assembly session, scheduled to begin on June 19.

In response to the Governor's request, the State Government led by AAP's Bhagwat Mann has stated that since the last session was adjourned by Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan in March and therefore, there is no need for any fresh permission. Additionally, the government has said that the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) is still in the process of deciding the items to be included in the agenda.

Earlier this week, the Governor had expressed his dissatisfaction with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann for not providing him with the relevant information he had requested in more than 10 letters which went unanswered.

According to media sources, the Vidhan Sabha is expected to address issues such as the Centre's alleged withholding of rural development funds and the ordinance on transfers and postings of bureaucrats in Delhi, for which the Aam Aadmi Party is seeking national support.

The Punjab AAP chief spokesperson, Malvinder Singh Kang, claimed that during the last Assembly session, the Governor refused to use the words "my government" in his address. Kang further added that despite being the Governor of Punjab, he advocated for Haryana's share in Panjab University.

Notably, this is the third time that the Governor and the State Government have been in a war of words over conflicting issues.

May 30: During a meeting with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday, Punjab Congress asked the party leadership not to support the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in its opposition to the Central government's ordinance concerning control of administrative services in Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi was also present in the meeting.

After the SC, on 11 May, had ruled that the Delhi Government has the legislative and executive powers over services, except for public order, police, and land, the Centre had issued an ordinance, establishing the National Capital Civil Service Authority.

This authority will be responsible for dealing with service conditions, as well as the transfer and posting of officials.

As is the law, the ordinance would soon come up for approval in the Parliament.

May 16: A 33-year-old woman was allegedly shot dead inside a Gurdwara in Patiala on the evening of 14 May.

The victim has been identified as Parminder Kaur.

According to the police, the woman was consuming alcohol near the Sarovar at the gurdwara complex. (Some reports have also mentioned that she was an alcohol addict undergoing rehab).

According to this report: "On complaint of onlookers the woman was taken to the manager’s room. While the police were yet to be informed, someone from the crowd of onlookers fired at the woman leaving her in a pool of blood."

The accused has been identified as Nirmaljit Singh.

On the evening of 15 May, the accused's family was felicitated by the head granthi of the gurdwara where the murder happened. As per this tweet, the head granthi, Giani Pritpal Singh, said that SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami himself had asked them to meet the family.

May 13:

The Aam Aadmi Party wrested the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat from the Congress. With this, the AAP finally has representation in the Lok Sabha.

This is how the final results of the Jalandhar bypoll looked.

1. Sushil Kumar Rinku (AAP): 34.05 per cent vote share.

2. Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary (Congress): 27.44 per cent vote share.

3. Dr Sukhwinder Sukhi (SAD): 17.85 per cent vote share.

4. Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal (BJP): 15.19 per cent vote share.

5. Gurjant Singh Kattu (SAD-Amritsar): 2.29 per cent vote share.

May 12: The Punjab Police has apprehended five suspects, one of whom is a woman, following a low-intensity blast near the Golden Temple in Amritsar on the intervening night between 10 and 11 May.

This marked the third such explosion to occur within a week.

Jalandhar bypoll

Along with Karnataka, polling for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll was conducted on 10 May.

The constituency registered a turnout of 54.5 per cent. This was almost 8 per cent lower than than the turnout in the 2019 Lok Sabha election: 62.36 per cent.

The bypoll was necessitated after the sitting MP, Santokh Singh Chaudhary of the Congress, passed away due to a cardiac arrest.

The tragedy is said to have occurred while Chaudhary was participating in the Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra.

In the ensuing bypoll, following were the candidates fielded by the four major parties:

Congress: Karamjit Kaur (Chaudhary's wife)

BJP: Inder Iqbal Atwal (who crossed over from the Akali Dal).

SAD-BSP: Dr Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi (MLA of Banga; one of only three MLAs of Akali Dal who won in 2022)

AAP: Sushil Rinku (who crossed over recently from the Congress).

May 7: Two explosions took place within 30 hours near the Golden Temple, in Amritsar.

The first blast took place near the Bansal sweet shop while the second explosion took place at Heritage Street.

One person was reported injured in the first blast.

May 6: Paramjit Singh Panjwar, also known as Malik Sardar Singh, chief of the designated terrorist organisation Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), was shot dead in Pakistan this morning.

The act was carried out by two unidentified gunmen in Johar Town area of Lahore around 6 am.

He was reportedly taking a walk when he was shot at.

Panjwar died on the spot, while his gunman sustained injuries and was taken to a hospital.

Panjwar was amongst the most-wanted terrorists on India's list. In recent years, he was reported to keep the KCF running through smuggling of weapons and drugs.

Even though Pakistan repeatedly denied hosting Panjwar, he was eventually killed in Lahore itself.

May 4: Union Home Minister today paid tributes to Parkash Singh Badal at former Punjab CM's 'Antim Ardas'. The ceremony is being held at village Badal in Sri Muktsar Sahib district.

Addressing the gathering, Amit Shah said that 'it will be very difficult to fill the gap in Indian public life that was created by Badal saab's passing away'.

"The Sikh panth has lost a loyal soldier and India has lost a patriot, said the Union Home Minister".

He added: "Only Badal saab could live an Ajatashtru-like life where even after 70 years in public life, you do not have a single enemy".

Along with the Union Home Minister, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and Union Jal Shakti Minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were also present.

May 3: Balwant Singh Rajaona’s plea to commute his death sentence, for the murder of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, to a life term, was rejected by the Supreme Court on 3 May.

In 1995, Rajoana, a former Punjab police constable and Babbar Khalsa International member, was found guilty of involvement in the assassination of Beant Singh.

Rajoana is linked to Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). In 2022, his sister Kamaldeep Kaur contested the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll on SAD(B) ticket but finished fourth.

May 1: According to this report, Amritpal Singh, who is lodged in Dibrugarh jail in Assam, has told the police during interrogation that he will "not cross the line of criminality if let off".

Further, the report also claims that Amritpal has told the police that he will "fight against drugs and conversion by Christian missionaries and will ensure no criminality".

Amritpal was arrested from Bhindranwale's native village in central Punjab on 23 April.

April 27: Parkash Singh Badal was cremated with full state honours at his ancestral village, Lambi. The village falls in Punjab's Muktsar district.

The last rites were conducted on a raised platform erected on an agricultural land owned by the Badal family.

Before the last rites, leaders from across the country and across parties reached Lambi to pay their last respects to the former Punjab CM. This included BJP president J P Nadda and NCP chief, Sharad Pawar.

April 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Chandigarh today to pay his last respects to Akali Dal patriarch and former Punjab CM, Parkash Singh Badal.

On the evening of 25 April, when news broke that Badal had passed away, PM Modi in a series of tweets had described it as a 'personal loss'. He recounted his interactions with Badal and described him as 'a colossal figure of Indian politics, and a remarkable statesman'.

April 25: Former Punjab CM and the leader known as the patriarch of the Akali Dal, Parkash Singh Badal, passed away at a hospital in Mohali today.

Badal was the chief minister of Punjab five times, most recently between 2012-2017. He also held the record of being both, the youngest and oldest, chief minister of Punjab.

Leaders across political parties have condoled the passing away of Badal.

April 23: Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh has been arrested from Moga in central Punjab.

The fugitive, who was on the run from 18 March, was arrested early this morning, according to Punjab police.

He was arrested from the Gurdwara Janam Asthan Sant Khalsa of Rode village. Notably, this is the native village of Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Some reports also claim that it was Amritpal who surrendered before the police.

He will now be shifted to Dibrugarh jail in Assam where other allies of his are already lodged.

April 20: Kirandeep Kaur, the wife of Waris Punjab De' leader Amritpal Singh, was stopped at Amritsar airport while attempting to board a flight to London and is now being questioned by the Punjab police.

April 17: Over the course of yesterday and today, a video went viral on social media which showed a woman being denied entry to the Golden Temple in Amritsar allegedly because she had the Indian tricolour painted on her face.

The person who denied entry is reported to be a worker of the SGPC. In the video, this person can be heard saying "this is Punjab, not India".

Reacting to this, the SGPC General Secretary has come out with a statement saying that: "This is a Sikh shrine. Every religious place has its own decorum...We welcome everyone...We apologise if an official misbehaved...The flag on her face was not our national flag as it didn't have Ashoka Chakra. It could have been a political flag"

April 14: Although there were speculations and rumours that Amritpal Singh would surrender today, on Baisaskhi, in either Amritsar, or in Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda, there was no sign of him in either place till the time of publication.

April 10: Papalpreet Singh, a close aide of 'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh has been detained under NSA from Amrtisar's Kathu Nangal area.

Addressing a media briefing, Punjab police spokesperson IGP Sukhchain Singh Gill said Papalpreet was arrested from Kathunangal area in Amritsar. The IGP said he has been booked under NSA and six other cases.

April 7: Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had called a special meeting of journalists today in Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda.

In this meeting, the head of the SGPC was reported to say: "I made an appeal to Sikhs to come for Baisakhi and I request media to not twist my words and run a news that I gave a call for ‘Sarbat Khalsa’”.

'Sarbat Khalsa' is a meeting of all the factions of Sikhism.

The context for Giani Harpreet Singh's comment was an appeal made by fugitive Khalistan-sympathiser Amritpal Singh, wherein he called for convening the Sarbat Khalsa.

April 6: Amid political uncertainty in Punjab, a new party called the United Punjab Party has emerged as the bypoll for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat approaches. Many churches have joined forces in this initiative as the region has a significant population of Dalits.

April 3: The Punjab Congress is proceeding with caution regarding Navjot Singh Sidhu's political role, but the party plans to use him against the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, earlier today, Sidhu met the family of the departed singer Sidhu Moosewala in Mansa.

Also Read: Why You Need To Watch Punjab Politics Closely For The Next Few Weeks

April 1: Navjot Singh Sidhu walks out of jail after ten months.

Speaking to the media, Sidhu said, 'there is no such thing as democracy right now. Conspiracy to bring President’s Rule in Punjab. Minorities being targeted. If you try to weaken Punjab, you will become weak'.

Meanwhile, a divided Congress will welcome Sidhu.

19 March: A fresh FIR was lodged against Khalistan-sympathiser Amritpal Singh and some of his associates on Sunday in connection with the possession of illegal weapons, a senior police officer said.

On late Saturday night, Jalandhar Police Commissioner Kuldeep Singh Chahal told reporters that: “He is now a fugitive and we are looking for him and we will soon arrest him".

Meanwhile, four associates of Amritpal were flown to Dibrugarh by a special Air Force aircraft and are expected to be kept at Dibrugarh Central Jail, according to reports.

A 27-member Punjab Police team, including the IG Jail, is accompanying them.

(With inputs from PTI).

18 March: In a major crackdown against Waris Punjab De Head Amritpal Singh and his supporters on Saturday, the Punjab police have reportedly detained six of his associates. A tense car chase broke out this morning, as the police tried to capture Amritpal. However, he managed to escape authorities.

As per reports, internet has been suspended in the state until Sunday noon (March 19).

14 March: The AAP made headlines, given the budget size was Rs 1.96 lakh crore. However, the state government is banking on borrowings (close to Rs 90,000 crore) to sponsor a larger part of its budget, further aggravating the debt crisis.

As per most experts, from within and outside the state, the government must look at avenues to increase the revenue from taxes, encourage more private sector enterprise in the state, and go easy on the expenditure pertaining to subsidies, especially in the power sector.

Eight Key Takeaways From The Punjab Budget 2023-24

10 March: Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema presented a Rs 1.96-lakh-crore state budget for 2023-24 in the assembly here on Friday with a focus on agriculture, education and health segments.

The state budget was delayed after a brief war of words between the Lt Governor and the Chief Minister.

However, beyond the announcements, the state's finances are in serious trouble.

Imminent Economic Disaster: Why Punjab Is Another Sri Lanka In The Making

9 March: Punjab’s public debt is likely to cross Rs 5 lakh crore in 10 years. This fact came to the fore in a report on ‘State Finances’ for 2021-22 prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General and tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday.

7 March: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has flagged the “misuse and uneven distribution” of the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) in Punjab, claiming 60 per cent of the grant was spent in former PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla’s home district Sangrur. Singla is a member of the Indian National Congress.

Yesterday, a 16-member committee formed by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh to discuss whether a ‘saroop’ of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib could be carried to sites of demonstration, protest and dharna in the wake of Ajnala violence.

The report would now be handed over to the Akal Takht Jathedar in a week, following which the findings will be considered by the five Sikh high priests.

3 March: To discuss law and order situation in Punjab, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. This comes in the wake of the storming of Ajnala Police Station by Khalistani sympathizers.

Amritpal Singh And 'Waris Punjab De': AAP Government's Incompetence Makes It Centre's Fight

1 March: Speaking to the media, Mann finally elaborated on the prevailing security threat in Punjab. About the violence in Ajnala, Mann said that there were elements who wanted to disturb the peace and harmony in the state using the SGGS as a shield, and many of them were funded by Pakistan with support through the border.

Mann has been under heavy political fire for focussing on Delhi instead of taking stock of the situation in Punjab.

23 February: Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh Sandhu's supporters first blocked the Jalandhar-Amritsar National Highway. Later, Ajnala police station in Amritsar was witness to mayhem when Sandhu's supporters broke through police barricades outside the station, all the while brandishing guns and swords.

They were protesting the arrest of one of Sandhu's aides in a kidnapping case.

A wave of unrest is sweeping through the state of Punjab as the Bhagwant Mann government appears to be yielding to Khalistani separatists. 

It won’t come as a surprise if both Kejriwal and Mann evade responsibility in the future and leave the problem for the centre to deal with, right before the elections of 2024. 

Therefore, it is imperative that the BJP avoids the mistakes they made during the farmer protests.

Why the rise of Sandhu to a position of power and influence is ringing alarm bells.

AAP versus Centre on the rebranding of Ayushman Bharat Clinics. The AAP government in Punjab has converted health wellness centres funded by NHM into their own 'Aam Aadmi Clinics', violating guidelines.

The NHM has already released Rs 438 crore for these centres, but the AAP's actions could put the next installment of Rs 546 crore at risk. Union government officials have sent a warning letter. Meanwhile, AAP denies these allegations.

Rearview: Punjab

In 2022, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sweeping one state after the other, only losing Himachal Pradesh to the Congress and Bihar to a fallout with Nitish Kumar, there was another party making headlines.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was expected to win Punjab, and that victory was on the cards since 2014, when they first won four of the thirteen Lok Sabha seats in the state.

However, courtesy of their own political misadventures and mistakes, it took them eight years to register a mammoth victory in the state assembly elections.

To evaluate the AAP government and the political future of the state, six events must be factored in.

One, the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, where AAP won four seats, and the BJP merely managed two.

Two, the state assembly elections of 2017, where AAP emerged as the main opposition party and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP coalition was decimated after ten years of misrule.

Three, the elections of 2019, where AAP was reduced to a single seat, BJP managed two, and the SAD leaders had to fight hard to retain their home turf.

Four, the farmer protests, and how that eliminated the trust between New Delhi and Chandigarh, and eventually resulted in a complete reshuffle of the political equations in the state.

Five, the assembly elections of 2022 where more than AAP winning big, it was all about the big names losing their seats.

And six, the AAP losing their only Lok Sabha constituency to an MP who openly professes his love for the separate state of Khalistan.

Longview Punjab:

Law And Order

Punjab's law and order problems have only increased since the arrival of the AAP.

It started with the Sangrur bypoll, murder of famous singer Sidhu Moose Wala, clashes in Patiala, and the emergence of Amritpal Singh Sandhu, self-proclaimed leader of the social group Waris Punjab De.

Protests have become a common sight in the state, with AAP playing a mute spectator, as elaborated here, here, here, and even before the elections, as explained here.

Broke But Proud

It takes a special masterstroke for a state to puncture its economic prospects, but that is what the farmers of the state went for in 2020. Punjab's agriculture, fueled by the endless MSPs, is hurtling towards an ecological crisis.

There's more bad news, however, and that has to do with the debt the previous governments have piled up in the last two decades.

While AAP, with its mandate, was expected to take some tough calls, they are only worsening the situation, resulting in some economists to suggest crowdfunding money to curb state's debt!

BJP Needs To Get Back Into The Game

While the protests at Singhu and the unforgivable rioting on the eve of Republic Day has furthered the electorate in Punjab from the BJP, there are many who would want economic and political stability to return to the state, and this is where the opportunity for the BJP lies.

It won't be an easy sailing given the equation with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), new players on the ground, and the fading popularity of many prominent leaders, from Badals to the Captain, but the BJP must be focussed on the long game, and make the best use of the next twelve months.

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