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Punjab: Could Amarinder’s resignation be BJP’s chance? Saffron party plays ‘wait and watch’

New Delhi, September 18 

The day turned out to be quite a mixed bag for the ruling BJP. In West Bengal, Asansol MP Babul Supriyo, who until July was among Prime Minister Narendra Modi council of ministers, jumped ship to join its bitter rival, the Trinamool Congress. In Punjab, the resignation of Congress’ Amarinder Singh presented what could potentially be an opportunity to capture a state that has so far resisted the saffron wave.

Capt Amarinder Singh’s move has opened doors for the BJP in a poll-bound year. Punjab’s a state where its stakes are low and where, with the Akalis no longer allies, its chances to make government are limited. It is also a state that’s played a major role in the ongoing farmer protests against the three controversial agriculture laws passed by the Centre.

Observers see Captain’s resignation as an unexpected opportunity for the BJP to lift its head in a state where it has so far been unable to stand on its own.

“Only his age and the three contentious legislations stand between the two (BJP and Amarinder) because Captain’s nationalist image works well for both the party and its ideological fountainhead RSS,” observers say.  

 

Soon after he resigned, Captain Amarinder Singh accused Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu of having “ties with Pakistan” and warned that his “elevation as CM will be a threat to national security”.

 “Pakistan PM Imran Khan is his friend. Sidhu has a relation with army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa,” Captain Amarinder Singh said on Saturday—words that would come as music to the BJP’s ears.

Interestingly, the BJP which slammed the Congress as a “complete failure in all fronts”, steered clear of criticizing Capt Amarinder.

The mafia raj of the Congress in Punjab will prove to be the last nail in its coffin in Punjab,” national general secretary Tarun Chugh said, adding that “replacing the CM is a panic reaction of the Congress high command to salvage the party situation after it failed to deliver in the last more than four and a half years”.

At 79, Amarinder Singh is beyond the BJP’s unofficial cut-off age for a CM. Whether he is looking for the job or is open to the idea remains to be seen. However, for a party looking for a credible face to support, even if it is from outside, age is an issue that can be easily overlooked. “Punjab is a border state and needs political stability. The (75-year) rule is not cast in stone. Besides, there are always opportunities in politics,” said a BJP leader who did not wish to be named.

Singh, who was quoted as saying that he will not join the Akali Dal, also said that he has not decided on “other parties”. His other options could also work well for the BJP and Congress’ other rivals such as the Aam Aadmi Party.  

If not a party of his own, Singh can always sit out and act as a spoiler for the Congress. Observers feel the BJP could benefit provided it makes some sacrifices, such as on the three laws, pr perhaps enacts a law on the MSP—the latter being a demand that a sister affiliate in the Sangh, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, has been demanding.  

The BKS has been demanding a “stringent law” on Minimum Support Price depending upon the actual cost of production.