WHY isn’t Captain Amarinder Singh joining the BJP? Is he forming a new party, now that he has scotched rumours of joining the BJP, but also asserted that his continuation in the Congress is not possible? Will he be able to ensure the Congress’ defeat in next year’s Assembly election in Punjab to avenge the “humiliation” over his self-perceived unceremonious ouster as Punjab Chief Minister a few days ago? Now that he seems to have agreed to a truce with Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, will Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who may very soon find another reason to get upset, repeat his theatrics again.
Add to these questions, a few more that arise amid the ongoing crisis within the grand old party. Is the ‘Group of 23’ (G23) disenchanted Congress leaders also planning to either join the BJP or be backed by the saffron party to form a new political grouping along with Amarinder Singh to get back at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for, what many of them privately call, their slighting? Or will the group join Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), which, after its spectacular defeat of the BJP in West Bengal, has suddenly become the first port of choice for the Congressmen fed up of waiting endlessly for a leader to emerge and take charge of the rudderless party?
And, in all this drama, will the Narendra Modi government finally agree to a deal with the protesting farmers to ensure that Captain Amarinder Singh gets a leg-up just before his next move?
These are some questions even the best of the political analysts will find difficult to predict correct answers to. After all, politics, as we are often reminded, is the art of the possible. But we can always try.
Why isn’t Amarinder Singh joining the BJP? The answer lies in what the BJP’s larger game-plan for itself in the border state of Punjab is. While it suits both Singh and BJP to keep the speculation alive, the BJP wants him to play the spoilsport for the Congress from outside. The former Punjab chief minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had a 45-minute-long meeting yesterday.
At almost 80 years of age and not exactly in the pink of health, Amarinder Singh can’t deliver the state to the BJP and the BJP knows that too well.
The BJP leadership also knows that it was his own failures as chief minister, as well as, his stubborn refusal to reach out to the Punjab public that led to his downfall. Find out when was the last time he continuously visited the Punjab Civil Secretariat or any government office for that matter on two consecutive days and you will understand the reason why people in Punjab, including his die-hard supporters, are upset with him. Have the voters of Punjab forgiven Amarinder so soon?
While the BJP may not be too enthused with the idea of getting him onboard, it would certainly want him to form a new party and ensure the Congress doesn’t come back to power in Punjab.
As for the Captain, he is a very sharp, astute politician, who, however, isn’t exactly known for his hardworking style. He, of all people, would know that by joining the BJP, even if the Union government does a fine balancing act on the three controversial farm laws to give him reason to claim victory, he would be committing political ‘hara-kiri’ towards the fag end of his political career. Does he want to be remembered as the Maharaja who joined hands with the opposing side – read the BJP – for his own vested interests? That is why Captain Amarinder isn’t joining the BJP.
Q. Is Capt Amarinder Singh forming a new party?
At the ripe age of 79-plus, when his old friend Chanan Singh’s advice to him, via a viral video, was to “cook lamb, have gin in the afternoon and whiskey in the evening and enjoy whatever life is left to spend”, Amarinder may not have the inclination or the energy to be the backbone of a new party. It takes hardwork to get a new party up and running.
Moreover, even all his die-hard supporters in the Congress may not jump ship with him. But, given enough incentives – it should remain unsaid – Amarinder may decide to take the plunge. After all, he may also want to attempt to hurt the Congress.
Q. Will Amarinder Singh be able to ensure Congress’ defeat in next year’s assembly elections?
This is a tricky question. Captain’s own stock with the voters is down, which is one of the reasons he was shunted out as CM. The voters, especially the Sikh peasantry, who are already upset with the BJP over the issue of three farm laws, may not accept Amarinder if he is seen as trying to further the BJP’s agenda.
The best plan if Amarinder really wanted to hurt the Congress was to be an insider and undercut the party through daily statements, embarrassing the party and the state government.
While 3-4 months is a long time in politics, Amarinder, having lost much of his charisma due to his poor track record as chief minister and inaccessible nature, may not be able to do much damage to the Congress’ chances. Unless, he is helped in his mission by a wobbly Congress.
Q. Will Sidhu again resort to theatrics?
The only sure thing with Navjot Singh Sidhu is that you can’t be sure about him. Even after all his demands are met, he can be expected to take to throwing tantrums again, over any issue, if he thinks he isn’t getting his way.
But, in the last three days, Sidhu, who was completely ignored by the high command after his impulsive resignation, must have learnt his lesson. More importantly, it is not as if he is rolling in offers from potential suitors – even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), still trying to find a high-profile Jat Sikh face, is not inclined to offer him Chief Ministership.
He can therefore be expected to be less mercurial going forward.
Q. What is the game-plan of Congress’ G23?
Barring a couple of leaders, like Bhupinder Singh Hooda, most members of the G23 have no ground support, and are more adept at the cloak-and-dagger stuff practised in the air-conditioned drawing rooms in Luytens’ Delhi or giving TV bytes than actual grass-roots politics.
None of them has any real support among workers. Having burnt their bridges with the Gandhi family, the only reason they reached the heights that most of them did, the only way forward for them is out. Whether they join the BJP or form a new party or join the TMC is a question that will be answered over time.
But, one thing is certain: Most of them would not let go of any opportunity to tarnish the image of the Gandhi siblings, even if it means joining hands with BJP.
But, will BJP accept them? That is the bigger question, one only BJP can answer.
Q. Will the Narendra Modi government finally agree to a deal with the protesting farmers?
Having spent over a year on the roads, anything less than a complete, unconditional roll-back of the three controversial farm laws may not be acceptable to the farmers. Having turned the issue into one of prestige, the Modi government may not like to give in. But, more than Punjab, where the BJP has little stakes, the party may agree to a deal, even if it means a little loss of face, in order to win Uttar Pradesh which also will go to polls at the same time as Punjab.
The plan may be to get Amarinder to try and take credit for any deal and then try and win over the angry farmers in Uttar Pradesh. But for today’s BJP, it is easier said than done. Prime Minister Modi, once he takes a decision, doesn’t back down.