SARKAR IN MANALI
From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye
- S Pal
From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye



RANK PATRIARCHY, patent chauvinism and complete lack of respect for any norms of decency is reflected in scores of Whatsapp exchanges, photographs and news items concerning Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh's sojourn in Manali.

With mercury breaching 43 degrees, it's perfectly reasonable for any resident of Chandigarh or Patiala to spend a few days with his or her family or friends in the hills. Amarinder Singh is only doing something that should actually restore people's faith in politicians — that they have simple desires and needs, that they, too, want to spend time with their near and dear ones, and that they, too, are equally susceptible to the rage of the summer sun and allure of the hills.

Politicians who do not want to spend time with their families and proclaim that they are forever committed to serve their people and have little time for places of debauchery like Shimla and Manali actually spend far more time on running their transport and hotel businesses.
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Bandying about Aroosa Alam's name in crafted-for-slander news items shows you are either out of line, or ethics, or mind. The objection to CM Amarinder Singh's Manali sojourn should actually be on a different ground.
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Besides, Amarinder Singh's personal rapport or relationship with a particular person, man or woman, is none of anyone's business. Bandying about Aroosa Alam's name in crafted-for-slander news items shows you are either out of line, or ethics, or mind.

The objection to CM Amarinder Singh's Manali sojourn should actually be on a different ground. Families change holiday plans for a good reason. If a kid is preparing to crack the NEET, a family foregoes summer vacation. The sulking younger sister should understand, and mom and dad promise to make up for it. 

Punjab is living through difficult times, a fact that Amarinder Singh could not have not known. He was on the stage, repeatedly and in different towns, just weeks ago, giving away Karza Mukti Certificates to debt-ridden impoverished farmers of Punjab. Not a day has passed since his five-day vacation began when a farmer or two did not commit suicide in Punjab because of debt.
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The SAD remains the prime target of widespread people's anger while the third challenger AAP is completely out of sync with politics, dependent upon Sukhpal Khaira's ability to hold press conferences and Bhagwant Mann's of not appearing drunk at public platforms.
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Last Tuesday, May 15, when Amarinder Singh would have been packing his suitcase for the vacation, five farmers committed suicide on one single day in Punjab. So far, no one person, not even his spin master heavyweight advisor, has claimed that for a few minutes, he considered cancelling his Manali trip.

But that's an ethical problem with the trip, and since political ethics in India are at an all time low – from Karnataka Raj Bhawan to Punjab Civil Secretariat's 2nd floor which is manned by an army of advising men paid for by the taxes extracted from citizens – why hold Amarinder Singh accountable to such high standards?

Personally I think expecting someone to cancel a Manali sojourn because five people killed themselves on one single day is setting the bar too low. 

It is for sheer political reasons that Amarinder Singh's trip seems a little odd.

The Shiromani Akali Dal is out in the field, fighting the Shahkot bye-election scheduled for May 28. The Congress has done much harm to itself by fielding a man who starred in a viral video hardly showing him in good light - literally and metaphorically. Amarinder Singh further underlined his approach to widespread public opprobrium by not caring two hoots for it and declaring that the campaign incharge for this bye-election would be Rana Gurjit Singh.

There are ways and ways of calling stupid the people of Punjab, the intellectuals harking back to ethics and political pundits making out a case for damage control. Rana Gurjit buried Amarinder's anti-corruption stand in the quicksand he mined. How will he help Amarinder in shoring up his clean image with soiled hands?

(It's a pity that Amarinder Singh has not invited Rana Gurjit Singh to Manali. What further harm can a tainted man do?)
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Amarinder Singh can weigh the human, ethical and political cost of his Manali trip against the number of farmers and farm labourers who killed themselves while he was celebrating with his friends in the hills, or the number of political leaders who opted to join the Akali Dal during these days.
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Meanwhile, in Punjab, the opposition Akali Dal continues to remain the prime target of widespread people's anger, a fact brought out by anecdotal evidence and social media. The third challenger is completely out of sync with politics, dependent merely upon Sukhpal Khaira's ability to hold press conferences and Bhagwant Mann's capacity of not appearing drunk at public platforms.

As a survival strategy, that's a poor choice that Amarinder Singh has made.

The facts speak for themselves: the Congress government has three and a half years more to complete, and second-rung political leaders with proven clout in their area are shunning it to join the Akali Dal. Those unhappy in the AAP are also opting for the SAD, and not Congress.

Amarinder Singh can weigh the human, ethical and political cost of his Manali trip against the number of farmers and farm labourers who killed themselves while he was celebrating with his friends in the hills, or the number of political leaders who opted to join the Akali Dal during these days.

A party that could not even become the principle opposition party is becoming attractive for second and third rung leaders. A party that came to power on an anti-corruption plank is being seen as one who had had to sack a minister for corruption but is adamant on making that fellow incharge of an election campaign. Normally, that should define 'total failure'. 

But a defeat in the Shahkot bye-election will perhaps stick that label more firmly.
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After Karnataka, Amarinder Singh is the only CM Congress is left with. Pondicherry is an apology. And yet, he figures nowhere in the party's calculations. Congress is making a huge political investment in Navjot Singh Sidhu.
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Amarinder's position in the Congress is fairly weak. At the recent Jan Akrosh Rally, Amarinder was not even asked to speak. After Karnataka, he is the only CM Congress is left with. Pondicherry is an apology. And yet, he figures nowhere in the party's calculations.  

Congress is making political investment in Navjot Singh Sidhu. After all, the man faced charges of manslaughter, but acquitted by the Supreme Court, he manages to have three separate photo-ops -- with Sonia Gandhi, with Rahul Gandhi and with Priyanka Gandhi, the last one considered more difficult to manage for even veteran 10, Janpath loyalists. Amarinder hasn't been able to get even a Divya Spandana to tweet anything positive about him. Political pundits steeped in the art of reading the reeds in the wind know what's happening. 

It was the easiest form of politics to indulge in, and the Badals made no mistake. At 90 plus, Badal Sr. is out in the field, moving among the people, landing up at commoners' homes to condole the deaths of those who passed away years ago, and taking up an issue that we want every politico to speak about.

In Lambi on May 21, he said the water in Punjab's canals must be clean and the government should make it a priority because people are dying due to polluted waters.
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And that's when people see what is not there in the Manali picture postcards. The absence is very, very jarring. In Punjab you face people, real people, and there is real danger. So there are always those assault-rifle wielding big, tall men surrounding you. They are not in the Manali frames.
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If Amarinder Singh is in Manali, and Punjab's waters are turning visibly black because of pollution from liquor distilleries and Badal talks about it, then the response should be slightly better than making Rana Gurjit Singh the election incharge for Shahkot.

That's where Manali comes apart.

That's where people start looking at the pictures emerging from Manali in a different light.

And that's when people see what is not there in the pictures, because the absence of someone is very, very jarring. "Where are all those assault-rifle wielding big, tall uncles dressed in black clothes?" My niece is not even seven years of age, and her teacher has made her collect pictures of politicians, clipped from newspapers.

She recognises some faces: the Badals, Amarinder, Navjot Sidhu figure in her diction. And she is having a problem: the Amarinder in Manali and his friends enjoying themselves are not surrounded by any gun-totting security detail.
 

I had convinced her that these people are very important and bad people want to harm them and so they have to be protected at all times, therefore the uncles in black with guns.

Now I had to tell her that these people are in Manali and that they do not face any danger, apparently, so the tall uncles in black are not in the frame.

And then it dawned upon me that she is just seven. Voters in Punjab who are above the age of 18 will deduce things far faster: in Punjab you face people, real people, and there is real danger. 

"Captain Amarinder Singh Haazir Ho!!!"

On May 21, in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Jaswinder Singh in SAS Nagar (Mohali), the ardali was loudly calling out the names in the Amritsar Improvement Trust scam case involving 32-acres of land ghotala. This is a case in which the Punjab Vigilance Bureau is now fighting for a clean chit to Captain Amarinder Singh.

Amarinder Singh could not be in two places. He was in Manali. So his lawyer moved an application for exemption from personal appearance.
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A party that could not even become the principle opposition party is becoming attractive for second and third rung leaders.
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Amarinder Singh seems to have moved an application for exemption from personal appearance before the people of Punjab. For him, politics seems to be a way of holidaying. It is not difficult for the state’s politicians, senior bureaucrats, top business honchos, trade union leaders, farmer organisations’ heads and even rookie journalists to find out what time a CM gets up, what time he drops in at his office, how much time he spends poring over files, how many hours or days he spends in the field, how many public interactions he has had, and how he spends his evenings. 

The only joke was the piece of news item that said Amarinder Singh will be going on leave for a five-day vacation in Manali. It spurred the obvious query: when did he report for duty at all?

That's where Manali goes all wrong; not because you have a drink with Aroosa Alam.

That's none of anyone's business.
 
 

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