From Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security lapse to the contentious sacrilege issue that saw Congress come to power in 2017, the battle for Punjab in this year’s assembly election is multi-cornered with BJP, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) having an array of issues to choose from to woo voters.
Voting for Punjab polls will take place on February 14. The Election Commission has banned political rallies till January 15 in view of rising Covid-19 cases in the country and will review the situation and issue further instructions. Once campaigns begin in full swing, issues such as farmers’ agitation of last year will also surface in rallies.
The 2015 contentious sacrilege of the holy Guru Granth Sahib that led to the firing in Bargari romped Congress to power in 2017 ousting the Akalis. Some in the ruling Congress including Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi maintained that the action against the alleged perpetrators was not adequate.
In fact, Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, is turning the whole sacrilege matter into a major election issue. His aides say they believe this will give him an edge over others after all he had put his own government in the dock over the issue. A former top police officer and now AAP leader, Inspector General Kunwar Vijay Pratap, who was in charge of the 2015 firing case after the alleged sacrilege, submitted his findings but the Punjab and Haryana Court termed them to be politically motivated.
Till the repeal of the three farm laws, the Punjab political discourse was dominated only by the farmers’ issues. The Congress was leading from the front to extend its support to them, the opposition AAP did not want to lose out on the opportunity and extended not only legal aid but the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi was extending all forms of support to the agitating farmers.
The SAD, however, decided to sever ties with its long-time ally the BJP, and Harsimrat Badal, as a gesture of support to the farmers, decided to give up her ministerial post. Though the laws have been withdrawn, issues such as fear of no guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) continue to dominate the political discourse. Now, with farmer leaders deciding to jump into the fray, the farmers’ issue is going to be a long haul.
The PM’s security breach in Ferozepur will not only be raised by the BJP but AAP and SAD too would jump the bandwagon and use it in their political discourse in the coming days with Punjab being one of the border states.
Besides sacrilege and drugs, Congress had taken the issue of sand mining into consideration that helped it secure power in 2017. Though the Channi-led government has said it has been able to tame the sand mafia but his colleague Sidhu has ensured that his claims continue to be under the political scanner. The Opposition will even gun for the issues of unemployment and the lack of government jobs.