It is Capt Amarinder Singh Vs Badals in Bathinda and Ferozepur

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, April 24: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has raised the bar in the Lok Sabha election.

It is now Capt Amarinder Singh against Sukhbir Singh Badal in Ferozepur and Harsimrat Kaur Badal in Bathinda.

Apparently, he is clear that the Badals, reeling under the fall out of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the related incidents, would forcefully return to the centre stage to dictate the political narrative in case the husband-wife team wins.

Sukhbir, as the Akali Dal president, has entered the perilous zone by opting to contest the Lok Sabha election. His wife Harsimrat is seeking third term from Bathinda. He has risked his entire political future in this election after having been pushed to the wall. It is a do or die battle for him.

Amarinder today declared, “I will personally campaign in Bathinda and Ferozepur to ensure that the Sukhbir-Harsimrat Badal couple is forced to bite the dust in these Lok Sabha elections.” It is his this assertion that is going to shape up the contest in Bathinda and Ferozepur.

In Punjab, the election is more than just winning or losing some seats. This election has the potential to dictate religio-political discourse of the state whose dynamics is different from all other states in the country.

Within 48 hours of candidature of Badals having been announced, the sacrilege narrative has returned to the centre stage. It is pertinent to mention that the issues that relate to semi-Panthic domain was unleashed by Sukhbir yesterday when he attacked Amarinder for backtracking from his pledge that he had taken with his hand on the Gutka in the run up to the 2017 election. Sukhbir is perfectly right.

Capt Amarinder Singh must be taken to task for not fully implementing the promises that he had made to the people of Punjab. In the process, However, Sukhbir has entered the Panthic domain where he is the weakest. He has unleashed the Panthic narrative.

Earlier, the Badals dragged the sacrilege narrative to the centre stage by being instrumental in the transfer of IGP Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh from the SIT probing the sacrilege related incidents-mainly the police firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015 when Parkash Singh Badal was the chief minister. It has added to the perception that the Badals are putting hurdles in the sacrilege probe.

Badals can’t escape accountability for what happened in 2015 in the context of Dera Sacha Sauda and sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib as these issues are rooted deep in their political strategy. Punjab had remained blocked for days on this issue in October 2015 and the then rulers just can’t get away without being at least accountable. The issue calls for explanation at least in the Panthic domain as also involved is the denigration of the highest Sikh institutions including the Akal Takht and the SGPC in the process of securing pardon from the Sikh clergy for Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.

The role of Badal is questionable as the Takht jathedars were summoned at official residence of the chief minister and dictated to grant pardon.

The stakes in Punjab are thus more than the number of seats won or lost by any party.

At one level, it can be said that it is not even political destiny of the Badals that is at stake.

The main issue is exploitation of religion and damage to the Sikh institutions by the Akali Dal leadership. The ball is in the court of the Sikhs.

Jagtar Singh

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