OPINION
Pakistan, Navjot Sidhu & the hug: Amarinder Singh 2018 is opposing Amarinder Singh 2004
- S Pal
Pakistan, Navjot Sidhu & the hug: Amarinder Singh 2018 is opposing Amarinder Singh 2004



IS A SHORT-TERM political exigency actually eroding the goodwill capital earned by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh?

No one can dispute two simple facts: Firstly, that Captain Amarinder Singh had emerged as the harbinger of the Indo-Pak civilian discourse and steered a popular Punjab-Punjab narrative during his last term; and secondly, that the same Captain Amarinder Singh is now being seen as opposing a harmless gesture by his popular minister Navjot Singh Sidhu during his recent visit to Pakistan.

Certainly, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was not a shining knight of democracy nor a stalwart fighter for Indo-Pak peace, by Amarinder Singh had broken convention by walking across the border with a bunch of his ministers and embracing each and everyone, regardless of their past.

He was happy to receive a horse from the then Punjab government and from Elahi who was a leading coterie member of a four-star general Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf had by then exiled an elected prime minister and ran the country in uniform and then in civvies. Surely, Amarinder Singh had not crossed the borders without a benign nod from Musharraf.

But he had done the right thing at the moment. Thanks to the shared sense of history, culture, language, destiny and life that Punjabis on both sides of the border have, Captain Amarinder Singh's overtures towards less-than-respectable characters in Pakistani politics were not frowned upon.

In fact, he was hailed as a messenger of peace. It is a constituency he nurtured carefully, and with some effort. His backing to the various World Punjabi Conferences and the exchange of delegations of businessmen, farmers, traders, lawyers and journalists defined and underlined Amarinder Singh's political approach. 
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The only way to stop Navjot Singh Sidhu from walking away with the crown will be to ensure that the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib is not opened. Amarinder Singh just tripped himself.
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It was a huge reservoir of goodwill that Amarinder Singh had earned with some effort. That he currently has a constant companion and friend by his side who hails from Pakistan reminds many of his overtures that had come just five years after Kargil.

Now, eager to snub Navjot Singh Sidhu, Amarinder Singh is negating that very goodwill. He is emerging as someone who, despite being a military historian and a war chronicler, can say something completely contrary to known facts.

Now Navjot Singh Sidhu is claiming that Pakistan's Army chief has assured him, rather informed him, about the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. 

It is possible that political exigency might have demanded that at no cost should Sidhu walk away with that huge prize. So, the CM has pooh-poohed Sidhu's claim, and has asked India's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to take up the issue with Pakistan through proper channels.

Here is a translation: Amarinder Singh, a military historian, thinks Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa is not really a powerful person whose writ will run in the matter of corridor, and Sushma Swaraj is such a powerful minister that she will be able to pull off with the help of Pakistan officials what General Bajwa cannot.

Also, it denotes that Amarinder Singh thinks anything in Pakistan happens only through "proper channels" and an army general will carry out proper fencing and will make arrangements as ordered by the Narowal SDM.

With due humility, that is a slightly erroneous judgement.
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Amarinder Singh thinks Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa is not really a powerful person whose writ will run in the matter of the corridor, and Sushma Swaraj is such a powerful minister that she will be able to pull off with the help of Pakistan officials what General Bajwa cannot.
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The next natural course of action should have been to take Navjot Singh Sidhu's word on its face value and demand that General Bajwa and Islamabad now carry out what was promised to the visiting minister and friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

Amarinder Singh could have turned the tables to say he would like Imran Khan to be the first person to walk through that corridor and escort the first jatha of the Sikhs for a darshan of the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara, the last abode of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev. Naturally, that jatha could have been led by Amarinder Singh. His old friend, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, is these days the speaker of Pakistan parliament, and could have received him.

This would have been Amarinder Singh's shining moment.

Instead, Amarinder Singh 2018 has now taken a firm stance against Amarinder Singh 2004. 

The new Amarinder Singh is speaking in sync with the Hindutva crowd. The new Amarinder Singh has more faith in the Modi government's capacity to get the corridor open, instead of harking to the sense of a shared heritage and culture of Punjabis.

But the latest stance of Amarinder Singh is more in line with the new avatar of Amarinder Singh, the man who wants a bravery medal for the Indian army officer who ties a Kashmiri youth to the bonnet of a jeep as a human shield. Amarinder Singh now wants ten Pakistani heads for every Indian soldier killed. Amarinder Singh now speaks the ultra-nationalist language. Amarinder Singh now does not squeak on matters of mob lynching. Amarinder Singh cannot even criticise Narendra Modi in the words that a Rahul Gandhi uses. 

Amarinder Singh has opened the field to his critics to attack not just him and his politics but also his personal friendships and life decisions. Of the many ways of losing the battle to Navjot Singh Sidhu, Amarinder Singh has chosen the worst option of negating his own political capital.

The last man to have a chuckle on this will be Navjot Singh Sidhu. The only way to stop Sidhu from walking away with the crown will be to ensure that the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib is not opened. Anyone seen as working towards that end will be seen as a person more close to the forces of hatred than those desiring peace between Punjabis on both sides of the Radcliff Line.

Amarinder Singh just tripped himself, and all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put Humpty Dumpty on the wall again. 

A Rahul Gandhi becoming a twice born Hindu by displaying his Janeu is the final victory of the BJP, because it denotes that the Congress has become a BJP Lite. With this legislative measure, all that Amarinder Singh has left to do is to tie a royal blue turban, since his is the Akali Dal Lite. The Aam Aadmi Party with Sukhpal Singh Khaira as its face is definitely an Akali Dal Ultra Lite trying to become an Akali Dal Lite under the leadership of a man whose father once used to shout Khalistan. 
 

The Akali Dal now has a chance to accuse Amarinder Singh of committing sacrilege since his government has actually, legally and literally equated Sri Guru Granth Sahib with religious texts of other communities, something anathema to most Sikhs. But with its ties with BJP already under strain, Sukhbir Singh Badal will prefer to wait. However, many radical groups will not.

The politics of Punjab is truly stagnating, and the stink is becoming unbearable. That sacrilege should hurt the sentiments of people of all religions, and also of none.
 

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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