Punjab is in the throes of election fever which is intensifying with each passing day. Various factors which can influence the results are coming to the fore.
Though the election dates have not been declared, the expected model code for the polls will come into effect only after the dates are announced. One of the biggest issues that has hit Punjab political scenario is that of the Satluj-Yamuna-Link- canal (SYL). The Supreme Court has advised President of India Pranab Mukherjee against the interests of the state, stirring a storm in Punjab. It appears that the manner in which SYL issue has been handled by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government, the alliance has benefitted from it. The political discourse which was earlier set on the issues of corruption, desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and unemployment suddenly changed to SYL.
On the SYL issue, the SAD took a lead in thumping its chests and declaring that highest possible sacrifice will be given to save Punjab waters. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal came forward saying, “I would be the first one to give sacrifice, and not a drop of water will be allowed to flow to Haryana.”
Badal’s statement was very well-publicised through print and electronic media besides running an advertisement on the subject in all the cinema halls of the state. The SAD also showed promptness in denotifying 5,314 acres of acquired land for SYL, to its original owners. Some farmers had even reclaimed their land by filling up the canal.
Congress too tried to cash in on the issue but its publicity machinery could not make an impressive debut in the renewed controversy over SYL. It appeared that Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Captain Amarinder Singh missed the proverbial bus. As many as 42 MLAs of the party resigned from the Vidhan Sabha following adverse decision of the apex court.
But the resigning tactic was deflated by the SAD’s contention that if the government resigned, the Union government will take over the administration to implement the SC orders and its advice to the President. The argument did have logic, people felt.
In the SYL politics, Aam Aadmi Party’s voice remained feeble. It was only once that its national convener Arvind Kejriwal spoke against the decision to give Punjab waters to Haryana. His speech was not followed by any rhetoric by the second rung leadership of AAP.
State president of the Congress Capt Amarinder Singh and the SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal drummed up a campaign by issuing repeated statements asking Kejriwal to come clean and transparent on the issue.
But the party and Kejriwal showed no alacrity.
The AAP’s entire discourse on corruption, poverty, jobs and austerity got submerged in the cacophony of the SAD and the Congress. AAP’s manifesto, however, took a clear stand on the river waters issue.
In AAP’s view, SAD and Congress were the real culprits who surrendered the riparian rights of Punjab under duress from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. There was sufficient evidence to show how the then Congress Chief Minister Darbara Singh followed by the SAD Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in his previous tenures, obliged the Centre on SYL.