OPINION
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON?
Amarinder first to talk about AAP-Congress alliance, but what could it mean?
- S Pal*
Amarinder first to talk about AAP-Congress alliance, but what could it mean?



MAKING THE MOST definitive statement till date about his party's stance towards the Aam Aadmi Party, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has made it clear that the Congress is open to a pre-poll alliance with the AAP.

"Building alliances is the prerogative of the central party leadership, not ours," Captain Amarinder Singh has said, making it clear that he and the state unit of Congress will do exactly what the high command tells them to.

The BJP and the Akali Dal in Punjab are likely to go hammer and tongs after the Congress and Amarinder Singh now as they will claim that the AAP was always a B team of the Congress, a consistent tune that the Badals kept up during the last Assembly election campaign.

The AAP is also likely to suffer a great deal of reputational damage since its only claim to legitimacy was remaining equidistant from both, the SAD-BJP and the Congress.
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The AAP is also likely to suffer a great deal of reputational damage since its only claim to legitimacy was remaining equidistant from both, the SAD-BJP and the Congress.
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Much of the AAP attack in the past few months has been on Captain Amarinder Singh for his defence of Rana Gurjit Singh, the failure to control drugs menace and the attempts to hastily wind up court cases and investigations into Ludhiana City Centre scam and other murky deals.

"How will we now go to the people and tell them that we were so wrong and that it is so important to defeat the BJP and Narendra Modi that we have decided to have a tie up with those we called corrupt?" lamented a senior MLA of the AAP in a free-wheeling chat with Punjab Today.

"Bechara Sukhpal Singh Khaira na ghar da rahega, na ghaat da. He left the Congress, calls Amarinder Singh and Rana Gurjit corrupt at every turn of the phrase, and will now have to work with them? How can anyone strike three 360 degree somersaults in politics in such a short duration," he said.

A Delhi-based retired senior bureaucrat, who worked closely with the AAP and was instrumental in hammering out strategy during the Delhi elections, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi only needs to hear a whiff about any impending pact between the AAP and the Congress and he will go to town across India talking about it.

The 67-3 defeat in Delhi rankles Modi till date, the retired babu said, "and he will not let go of an opportunity to encash the potential publicity such a pact allows."
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Even if AAP has not come up to the people's expectations and the performance of its 20 MLAs has been far from sterling, voters in Punjab do look forward to both: a strong, acceptable leader, and hope of a clean politics.
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In Punjab, many Congressmen see this as an admission of the inherent weakness of the party in Punjab. 

"AAP in Punjab is no more the kind of force it was in early 2017. It has been riven by intra-party rivalry; it has lost its teflon sheen; many of its leaders have been jumping ship and the party lacks groundwork and a proper machinery. With the popular wave having ebbed, there's not a single AAP MLA who is sure of retaining his ticket or seat. The crowd and the vote share that it has garnered is likely to return to the Congress on its own, without any pre-poll alliance," said a senior journalist who flirted with the AAP at one stage and was a sort of advisor for a brief period.

A Congress minister said political analysts must understand the need of the central leadership of the party to have such a pact. "The fact is that Rahul Gandhi needs a larger number of MPs, a higher vote share, a perception that all and sundry are ready to align and work with him. An AAP-Congress tie up has immense potential for creating such a perception," he said.

Asked if Amarinder Singh will not resist such a tie up if he felt that it may not be in the interest of Punjab Congress, the minister said that Amarinder Singh, in fact, may welcome it.

"As things stand, Amarinder Singh is not the top billing candidate in the Congress for another go at the top job. Rahul Gandhi is much more inclined towards Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manpreet Singh Badal. But if Amarinder Singh goes out on a limb and sells the AAP-Congress pact as a major move to clean up politics in Punjab, he may be the man to lead the Congress' campaign once again," the minister said.

Many of the journalists that Punjab Today spoke to said Amarinder Singh enjoyed a degree of personal acceptance among Punjab electorate that goes beyond the Congress party. Similarly, the idea of AAP continues to have a significant following, as against the AAP itself.

So, even if AAP has not come up to the people's expectations and the performance of its 20 MLAs has been far from sterling, voters in Punjab do look forward to both: a strong, acceptable leader, and hope of a clean politics.
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The BJP and the Akali Dal are likely to go hammer and tongs after the Congress, claiming that the AAP was always a B team of the Congress.
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"Amarinder plus the idea of a corrective third force can be a tempting electoral combination. The central Congress leadership is well aware that despite the lacklustre performance of the Amarinder Singh government, the prime target of hatred in Punjab continues to be the Akali Dal and the Badals. In 2017, the voters were split between seeing a strong CM and backing a movement for clean politics. A combo may give the Congress an impetus for 2022, not just for 2019," argued a former AAP leader who unsuccessfully contested on AAP ticket but is now far removed from electoral politics.

A mid-level Congress leader in Delhi told Punjab Today that the party was still to seek feedback from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and a few other pockets, including Goa about how the idea might be received. 

But more than that, Rahul Gandhi should be worried about the potential the idea has for a Narendra Modi-Amit Shah machine which can work overtime and project the Congress president as someone who works with anarchists and the dharna-pardarshan bunch. 

As for now, Amarinder Singh has given enough handle to the Akali Dal and the BJP to claim that AAP and Congress have a strategy to either play a friendly game or fix the match beforehand. In all of this, a man called Sukhpal Singh Khaira may find himself homeless. The politics of cleanliness can have the most intended victims, as well as unintended scenarios.

Perhaps a Rana Gurjit sitting next to an Arvind Kejriwal. Who knows? "It's for the high command to decide," an Amarinder Singh would say.

*(With inputs from Nischay Pal in Amritsar and Kamjaat Singh in Delhi.)
 

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.

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