We at TFIPOST have been saying this for quite some time- Captain Amarinder Singh is done with the Congress and he will float a new political party that could ally with the BJP. Any such move will change everything in the state of Punjab and put the BJP in a commanding position.
In a freewheeling conversation with ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Captain Amarinder Singh revealed that he will form his own political party, which is likely to form a pre-poll alliance with the BJP and a few splinter groups of the Akalis.
Why is Amarinder breaking up from the Congress and forming his own political party
Captain Amarinder Singh suggested that the prolonged farmers’ agitation over three Central farm laws is moving towards a final resolution, with the government holding talks with farm representatives. He hinted that his decision on accepting BJP as a pre-poll ally would depend upon a satisfactory resolution of the farmers’ agitation.
Now, the farmers’ agitation may be a political excuse. But in reality, it seems that Captain was fed up with the Congress. The central leadership of the grand old party was trying to undercut him as it was difficult for Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi to match up to Amarinder Singh’s popularity. By propelling Navjot Singh Sidhu and even appointing him as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, the central Congress leadership had tried to undermine Amarinder’s position.
How Amarinder’s new political party will change political dynamics
The big shuffle by Captain Amarinder Singh is going to change the way Punjab politics works. Amarinder Singh has been one of the tallest leaders in Punjab for several decades now. Even at a time when the Akalis enjoyed a tight grip on the state of Punjab, it was Amarinder who catapulted the Congress to power in the North Indian state.
Amarinder, who is himself a Jat Sikh, enjoys considerable popularity amongst both Jat Sikhs and the Dalit Sikhs, in Punjab. At the same time, he is probably the only mainstream leader who also speaks against Khalistani elements and the killings of Punjabi Hindus by Khalistani elements at the peak of insurgency in Punjab. So, he also wins a sizeable share of the Hindu vote.
As such, Amarinder is a Punjabi leader and not the leader of any one particular community, which makes him a strong political contender. As he exits the Congress and forms his own political party, you can expect Amarinder’s party to eat into Akali Dal’s Jat Sikh vote bank and Congress’ Dalit Sikh votes.
BJP in the pole position
Any Amarinder-BJP alliance in the run-up to Punjab elections is likely to put the BJP in a commanding position. Both sides are likely to be interested in an alliance due to ideological semblance.
Amarinder, being a proud former Army officer, is a nationalist leader and is popularly referred to as “Captain” by the people of Punjab. He is also particularly popular amongst the Hindus for his tough stand against Khalistani sentiment. On issues like surgical strikes in 2016 and Balakot airstrikes in 2019, Amarinder was also found supporting the Centre.
The BJP already seems to be getting Hindu and Dalit Sikh votes in Punjab. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) predominantly relies on Jat Sikh votes, whereas the Congress faces issues like allegations of casteist remarks against its lawmaker Ravneet Singh Bittu.
Also, the lynching of Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit Sikh, by Nihangs at the Singhu border has once again opened up the issue of caste politics in Punjab. Amit Malviya, in-charge of BJP’s National Information & Technology Department, tweeted, “Lakhbir Singh, 35 year old Dalit Sikh, who was hacked to death, was hurriedly cremated in the dark of the night, using mobile torch lights, family not even allowed to see him one last time. No dignity for the dead in Congress ruled Punjab, just because he happened to be a Dalit?”
Interestingly, Captain too seemed to dismiss any sacrilege angle behind the Singhu border lynching. He said, “I don’t believe that he was doing be-adbi or sacrilege because there were too many people. The person who did it (killed him) was in a frame of mind he could not control. He could have been intoxicated. Nihangs are known to take ‘sukha’ (a form of intoxication).”
A pre-poll alliance with Amarinder Singh can turn out to be a force multiplier for the BJP and solidify its popularity with the Punjabi Hindus and Dalit Sikhs. In the coming months, Amarinder will completely change the political dynamics of the state and the Assembly polls next year may as well bring a BJP CM to power for the first time in the North Indian state.