Wanted—Leadership In Punjab

by Rohit Pathania - Sep 20, 2022 02:02 PM +05:30 IST
Wanted—Leadership In PunjabWanted—Leadership in Punjab
Snapshot
  • The leadership vacuum in Punjab is a serious problem, and needs redressal soon. 

    It was in a similar vacuum that the extremism and terrorism associated with Khalistan movement turned up.

The latest fiasco around Bhagwant Mann's much hyped tour of Germany led to absolute ridicule for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led government in Punjab and also the Indian diplomatic corps. 

Not only did Mann cover himself in infamy with the false claim of securing a BMW-led investment into the state of Punjab, there are also reports coming out that he was unable to board the flight back to India due to an alleged state of inebriation that proved too much for the airline to handle. 

Of course, the silence of AAP's social media army and its refusal to defend Mann raises questions on who really calls the shots in the party's state unit.

Bhagwant Mann was not necessarily the tallest leader of the state unit, as was seemingly portrayed on the eve of the 2022 assembly elections. As pointed earlier too, the victory of AAP was more a vote of rejection of all other parties in the state. 

The electoral result was a reflection of the absolute disgust of the people with the state of affairs around politics in Punjab. Cutting across groupings was a yearn for change. 

However, disillusionment with the new administration too set in fast, as was seen with Simranjit Singh Mann's victory in the Lok Sabha by-election a few months later. 

A low voter turnout in the Chief Minister's Lok Sabha seat and the humiliating defeat of his party was a clear sign of the loss of confidence in the state government. 

Stories of MLAs of AAP outdoing the excesses of former MLAs of other parties surface so frequently that it has become difficult for the party to even attempt a defence anymore.

However, all these developments must also be seen within a larger paradigm that has been haunting the state's political scene. A simple scan shows how there's fog when it comes to people who can lead Punjab. 

Captain Amarinder Singh's popularity started waning in 2017 itself after becoming the Chief Minister. A variety of reasons notwithstanding, Captain has been labelled a Delhi sellout. 

Even his replacement in the form of Dr Charanjit Singh Channi or the super-CM, state Congress president, Navjot Singh Sidhu, proved assets for the AAP with their inability to be effective and constant undermining of the Congress government through their actions. 

Dr Channi is nowhere to be found today, while Mr Sidhu is in jail. 

Captain's entry into the BJP after his Punjab Lok Congress experiment is essentially a glorified retirement to cap a long standing career in politics.

As pointed earlier however, the choice is anything but appropriate, and hopefully, Captain won't be given a big role, much on the lines of SM Krishna in Karnataka. 

To expect it to make an impact would be laughable at this stage. His unpopularity remains high to this day, and knowing how he exploited sentiments to stoke fires on multiple occasions, it would be perhaps best to let his position be ceremonial. 

One more force of Punjab politics on the decline is the Akali Dal, led by the Badal family. There's no one to challenge Sukhbir Singh Badal in the Akali Dal (Badal) faction. However, post 2012, the party has gone into an interminable decline, with no signs of a revival in sight. 

With Simranjit Singh Mann also giving them a run for their money on panthic issues, it is no surprise that there's a sense of desperation now. Some kind of reform was discussed, but any leadership challenge to the Badals is punishable with expulsion, as is the case with the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhis. 

Much fun was poked at a supposed Dubai visit of Sukhbir Badal where he was apparently shopping for expensive items, with people criticising him for putting the state in a financial mess just to "fill his own pockets". 

Even the SGPC's efforts to nudge a revival through controversial issues have not gotten traction, be it the question of Bandi Singhs, religious conversions or the question of carrying weapons as a "religious mandate".

This is where an opportunity exists for the BJP. However, the conditions are straightforward - a clean break from the past, and a youthful leader who can set the narrative with his/her guts. For now, however, there's none in sight. 

After a long time the party is trying to grow in the state, and so it will need time. But time is short when one sees the larger perspective.

The leadership vacuum in Punjab is a serious problem, and needs redressal soon. 

It was in a similar vacuum that the extremism and terrorism associated with Khalistan movement turned up. Attempts are being made to find rallying figures after Deep Sidhu, with Amritpal Sandhu of Punjab De Waris trying to do the same on a variety of issues. 

As it is, the tensions with the Deras is high, as was seen with the Nihangs attacking the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) headquarters in Beas, and also the attack on the alleged proselytising ceremony earlier.

While the case of Sidhu Moosewala's murder has seen progress, law and order, by and large, is absent. 

In the absence of AAP, is there anyone to take charge in Punjab today?

Also Read: Captain Amarinder Singh's Entry Into The BJP — Predictable But Problematic

Rohit Pathania works in the space of renewable energy and environment. Other interests include politics and the economy.
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