OPINION
WOOING THE PANTH
Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron
- kanwar manjit singh
Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron



PIARA SINGH WAS a little, chubby kid, studying in Class 2. His father Dilbagh Singh was a religious man. On that hot day in June, he was at Sri Harimandir Sahib to observe the martyrdom day of the Fifth Sikh Master. A grenade lobbed by the army left him injured. He was arrested and became a Jodhpur jail Sikh detenue. There was no one else to pay Piara Singh's school fee, so he dropped out of school. Dilbagh Singh died in 2012. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has cleared a payment of Rs 2.6 lakh as the state's part of the compensation amount. The Centre is in the court to contest that it should not be asked to pay its share.

Thirty-four years after that summer of 1984, and 27 years after the legal battle began, 40 of the 365 Sikh detenues, or their kin, finally received the compensation from the Punjab Government.

CM Amarinder Singh has announced that not only his government will award the same amount of compensation to all Jodhpur detenues, irrespective of whether or not they had gone to court to claim it, but will also pay the Centre's share if the Modi government failed to do so.

Amarinder Singh's government has also written to the Centre not to oppose in court the payment of the meagre compensation share.

The issue seems to have been cast aside from the headlines quickly, thanks to the drugs-related deaths and the Black Week Movement, and now the enhanced MSP of paddy and cotton, but political pundits are well aware of the potential spin this issue can give to partisan politics in Punjab.
----------
Time and again, Amarinder Singh is walking away with panthic issues. Time and again, the Badals have been huffing and puffing to keep pace and claim panthic territory.
----------
Given the fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal made the waiving off of the GST from Langar ingredients a major issue, only to find itself short changed by Arun Jaitley's clever manoeuvre, the Akalis could ill afford to lose a huge panthic issue to Amarinder Singh and the Congress party in Punjab.

Right from Harsimrat Kaur Badal downwards to the Akali Dal minions in back of the beyond villages, the party of the religion is finding it tough to convince people that the GST on Langar has ended in any kind of victory.

It is using the clergy to certify that the GST has been waived off. It is issuing statements thanking Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. Its apologists are finding it tough to tell the Sikh community that Sewa Bhoj Yojana and Langar is one and the same thing. It is challenging the wisdom of the entire chartered accountants' fraternity by spewing financial wisdom that reimbursement and waiver is the same thing. 

It still has to explain why the "waiver" is meant only for financial year 2018-19 to the financial year 2019-20.

If Narendra Modi had wanted, he could have allowed his cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to make the announcement. Instead, she was left to tweet thanks to Modi after the order came from the Ministry of Culture. Modi gave something that Harsimrat had been demanding for too long, but did not allow her to walk away with any credit.

On the other hand, he left room for Amarinder to take all credit for rising to the occasion on a panthic issue. Now, Amarinder can slam Sukhbir Singh Badal and his union minister wife for failing to convince Narendra Modi that the Centre should not oppose payment of compensation to Jodhpur detenues.

Time and again, Amarinder Singh is walking away with panthic issues. Time and again, the Badals have been huffing and puffing to keep pace and claim panthic territory.

It started way back during Amarinder Singh's earlier term as Chief Minister. Making his mark in politics by resigning his Lok Sabha seat in protest against Operation Bluestar, Amarinder Singh has given the Congress party a panthic tinge in a very calculated fashion.

He brought into the Congress fold people who had had a brush with militancy, all the while fending off sharp criticism from the likes of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and ilk. He celebrated Sikh centenaries, widened the bonds with western Punjab, actually led an official delegation there in 2004, then led a procession to install a golden palanquin at Sri Nankana Sahib, and made Harchand Singh Longowal anniversary into a state level event.

The Akali Dal patent on panthic turf continues to remain challenged, and Amarinder Singh can always hark back to his bravado in passing the Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, thus claiming credit for guarding the waters of Punjab and even challenging his own party leadership on this issue.

Time and again, Rahul Gandhi is refusing to give Amarinder Singh credit for what he has done. The Congress president has never referred to the farm loan waiver of Amarinder Singh, and his social media spin master Divya Spandna has never tweeted about any of the achievements of Punjab Government.

Amarinder Singh has projected himself as a force to reckon with vis-à-vis his party president Rahul Gandhi. In an authorised biography, he even admits/claims that he threatened to quit the Congress if he was not allowed to have his way. Compared to the Badals' near obsequious positioning vis-à-vis Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, Amarinder Singh appeals more to the constituency that always wants to see Punjab's leadership brave enough to stand up to Delhi.

If political pundits are to be believed, the powers that be in New Delhi are playing footsie with Amarinder Singh while repeatedly tripping alliance partner Akali Dal. 

If the Congress under Rahul Gandhi emerges stronger in the upcoming elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Amarinder Singh will be dealing with a much stronger party president. Given his nature, it may actually precipitate the state of affairs. A possible outcome could be Amarinder Singh building his own political vehicle, an idea he has toyed with in the past.

Notwithstanding his earlier public statements, Amarinder Singh may want to serve Punjab yet again, and this time, he may want a vehicle that he drives himself. In such a scenario, the image of a panth-prast leader would come in handy.

Prakash Singh Badal hobnobbed with the hotheads in Sikh politics for too long. No wonder, he had to attend many yagnas, pay floral tributes to many Hindu gods and goddesses, attend many jagratas, and stand with hands folded before many self-styled holy men to cultivate a secular image and the Hindu vote bank.

Amarinder Singh does not have to do any of that. His strong nationalist view point, his diatribes against Pakistan, his consistent praise for the armed forces and his line on Kashmir that the Army be given a free hand will do the trick for him.

All he has to do is to wean away some of the panthic vote bank from the Akali Dal. The compensation to the Jodhpur Sikh detenues fits in well with his strategy. It's a blank cheque that Amarinder Singh can encash at the hustings.

It could prove to be the crucial difference between victory and defeat. Amarinder Singh paid heavily in 2012 when he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2017, the Aam Aadmi Party did his job for him, painting the Akali Dal as a party of the corrupt. At the next electoral battle, with the third force weakened, Amarinder Singh would want the panthic constituency with him.

The Jodhpur detenues will make for a very potent statement. The GST on langar waiver not so much. The Akali Dal looks a lot more saffron. Amarinder Singh a lot less Congress wallah.
----------
The compensation to the Jodhpur Sikh detenues fits in well with his strategy. It's a blank cheque that Amarinder Singh can encash at the hustings.
----------
That's a spin Amarinder Singh would want. There is a palpable vacuum out there in the panthic constituency. The Shiromani Akali Dal is a brand that has been burdened by the rotting reputation that the Badals enjoy, and there is little chance that the owners will relinquish their ownership rights in order to save the brand. 

Saving the Brand Badal is a nightmare for any image consultant wizard — not just because the brand has been rubbished beyond repair, but also because the protagonists work hard every day to further erode value. Sukhbir Singh Badal’s best strategy to save the brand has been to speak even more, to take the front seat himself, to deploy a television channel devoted largely to singing praises of his wife's Nanhi Chhanv initiative and hailing ad nauseum her services to the panth.

They just don’t know how to stay away from a screen or a microphone. Whoever devises the peculiar image marketing strategy that "if people want to see less of you, you serve more of yourself to them," smokes something really strong.

In contrast, when it comes to Amarinder Singh, the chorus is that he is giving too little of himself to the people who voted him to power. They want more of Amarinder Singh. All he has to do is to spend less time on the hills, more in Punjab’s streets. Definitely a lot more in the Punjab Civil Secretariat.

Three photo-ops having langar, two visits to lesser known gurdwaras, a grant to preserve a historic place related to a Sikh guru, a chair in the name of a grand old deceased professor of Sikhism, a tiff with the Centre over increasing the number of pilgrims who can go to Nankana Sahib — Amarinder Singh can pull up any of the thousand ideas that even his tired and bored public relations department minions can suggest, and it will work. The Badals can do all of these and it may backfire. The reason? It’s the brand, stupid! 

Watch out for 2019, and surely for 2022 if Rahul Gandhi manages to suffer the Maharaja for that long. The Panth is ready. Is Amarinder, too?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

SUPER EFFICIENCY ONBOARD CM’S CHOPPER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties: The Coordinated Silence of Amarinder Singh & Badals

PM MODI VINDICATES PUNJAB TODAY REPORTAGE

NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA - Trudeau came to Punjab, pushed Amarinder closer to BJP, then called him a liar

JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

J&K – RAM MADHAV LEAVES SPACE FOR MEHBOOBA’S POLITICS

SHEKHAR GUPTA'S HALF-BAKED TRUTHS 

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

PNB Scam: Who is Nirav Choksi and what he is doing In the name of God?

Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar 

RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.

MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER

PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT








Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 







MOST VISITED
YOU MAY LIKE

TOPIC CLOUD

TAGS CLOUD

ARCHIVE



Copyright © 2016-2017







NEWS LETTER