Vidhan Sabha elections in Punjab, scheduled for early next year, will certainly be much more interesting than ever as the state that used to have a kind of bipolar electoral fight, with the two arch rivals-Congress and SAD-BJP alliance-primarily taking one each other, is now moving towards a stage where people will have multiple choices to cast their votes. Till Friday there were talks of a triangular contest with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) being considered as a significant force but the formation of Awaz-E-Punjab, a political group having former parliamentarian Navjot Singh Sidhu and three state MLAs-Pargat Singh (suspended SAD leader) and two Bains brothers of Ludhiana-Simarjeet Singh and Balwinder Singh, has made a sharp change in the whole scenario.
Though the Awaz-E-Punjab will have a formal launch on September 8, a trailer like announcement by the group leaders has disturbed the calculations of all, especially the AAP, as at different points of time each of the four was expected to don the AAP cap. The development that came with a sudden revelation has stunned a majority of AAP volunteers as they were excepting Navjot Singh Sidhu, being Punjabi Sikh and noted face of the country, at the top in their state unit. Without even waiting for the formal announcement of the party, the political observers named it ‘fourth front’ in Punjab politics, certainly for giving value to the ‘honest image’ of all four leaders.
If it were a shocker for the AAP that is already wading through tough period for the untimely and heavy emergence of rebels within the party, strong protests against Delhi leadership’s dominance in Punjab affairs and the controversial remarks of the party’s election campaign committee head Bhagwant Mann, the Congress too can’t smile over the development as the votes which the Awaz-E-Punjab will eat is expected to be the share of either AAP or the Congress as the persons leading the ‘fourth front’ are currently considered as anti-establishment for their unguarded attacks on the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.
It is also interesting to observe, for once again, that masses have very short memory. People want freshness in the air as quick as it is possible. Those who were riding high with the claim that the AAP is going to rock in Vidhan Sabha polls have started saying that the fourth front can emerge as a major challenge for all. However, the two traditional rivals-the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance-is claiming to be unperterbed over the development as they term the ‘Awaz-E-Punjab’ as a group of disgruntled and rejected leaders. Furthermore, the two foes are quite bold in projecting one another as the major challenge while ruling out the standing of AAP and Awaz-E-Punjab.
Perhaps, either they understand that the enemy of enemy is friend or they don’t want to give publicity to the new rivals realising that even negative publicity too can work as booster for the two. Amid such circumstances, the political observers have started finding the SAD-BJP alliance stronger than the Congress. Though it is too early to predict, they give importance to the previous experience of the People’s Party in Punjab (PPP), an outfit of Manpreet Singh Badal that could win not even a single seat but enable the SAD-BJP alliance candidates win many seats with just a small margin of votes.
While giving her observation about the Punjab Vidhan Sabha election results of 2012, the AICC president Sonia Gandhi had also admitted that the Congress candidates could win the battle had the PPP not been there as the anti-incumbency votes which the PPP candidates got was more than sufficient for the Congress to form the government in the state. As there is no permanent friend or foe in the politics, Manpreet is now holding a key position in the Congress party’s poll manifesto committee after he merged his outfit with the Congress. Interestingly, till the Awaz-E-Punjab was not announced, a section of society, having soft corner for the incumbent alliance, was foreseeing the AAP taking PPP’s position. Now a further split of votes between the third and the fourth fronts can’t be ruled out, despite leaving the debatable issue-’favouring whom?’
Amid such situation, the SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who has proved himself as the champion of micro-politics by winning almost every election in the past nine years, is reportedly busy in observing the developments too minutely as this time he doesn’t want any of his moves on the ‘political chess board’ going awry. Further, with all respect and humility in this politically hot weather, the political observers now find the charisma of former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who is the most acceptable face in the state politics, diminishing, as they find that the Congress being the national party can’t take immediate and ‘too risky’ moves which Akali Dal is sure to do.
If one notices the whole hullabaloo in the state politics in depth, former Congress MP Jagmeet Singh Brar, who had once defeated Sukhbir Singh Badal in parliament polls, is not getting much importance. A vociferous leader Jagmeet, who was once given a title of Awaj-E-Punjab by the Congress workers during his golden period, after parting ways with the Congress had floated his own group. Except holding a rally in Mohali, where he could manage to pull people in sizeable number, his group is awaited to show its base and strength till date so as to be seen in parallel of the four fronts. It is also pertinent to mention that his move to join BJP was scuttled and the entry in AAP could also not be possible for different reasons and now he claims to be in no hurry to join any group including ‘Awaz-E-Punjab.’
No doubt the Bahujan Samaj Party and the leftists also contest Punjab polls but the political observers hardly see them to be in a position to form the fifth front for the leaders in both the camps having been exposed to losing their vote base in the past. Going by the current political scenario, the state is heading for a four-cornered contest with each of them claiming itself stronger than others.
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