Except for the defeat of many stalwarts on both sides, Punjab poll results have sprung no surprises. Media projections have been more or less been vindicated and Akali Dal has also not got very high approval rate from people at large. Of course, biggest surprise of the poll outcome is the rise of BJP, which should cause worry not only to the Congress, but even to Akali Dal. It can start eating into its own base. Akali Dal has just increased its tally by five seats and Congress party’s position has just been as that of Akali Dal in 2002.
People actually have not much to choose these days, as there is little difference in the programmes and conduct of most of the parties, whether at Centre or at state level. But in absence of real alternatives, people have learnt some realistic lessons. Most important of these lessons, being to defeat that incumbent Government, which take people for a ride for five years of rule. In the context of five year rule of Amrinder Govt. in Punjab, literally it was a Amrinder and not Congress Govt., people have suffered all kinds of brutalities. Whether it were peasants or workers, employees or students, all were treated in a high handed manner, even the young girl students were not spared of police brutalities, as is now in the records of many electronic media archives. The forcible taking over the land for Trident Industry, without at all being sensitive to peasant concerns, dealing student and unemployed youth issue only through brutal lathi charges were the order of the day in these five years. Using most foul and intemperate language for political adversaries like Prakash Singh Badal, chief Minister for three terms, just showed the mindset of a man, who, lived as a ‘Maharaja’, even when ,it was the Congress Govt. of Smt. Indira Gandhi, who had abolished all princely titles, way back in seventies. With impunity and total disregard to Indian constitution, not only slavish minded Congress men, even the Govt. officials, used these obsolete and unconstitutional titles –“Maharaja’ and ‘Maharani’ for Amrinder Singh and Praneet Kaur in Government advertisements. From the day one, in fact almost a fortnight before day one, meaning even before the polling was held in February 2002, Govt. officials had started knocking at the doors of Amrinder Singh and he in no uncertain terms had started announcing his one point agenda of personal vendetta in a most arrogant feudal style, thinking himself as real ‘Maharaja’ of British colonial times, when his forefathers were batting for British colonial rule and were killing patriots like Sewa Singh Thikriwala in their feudal jails. Akali misrule of 1997-2002 had created favourable atmosphere for Amrinder to act like Raja Gianender of Nepal, whom Nepalese people have now shown his true worth. Not that Badal family or his ministers had no blot on them, yet the way Amrinder went after them and his other adversaries, even inside the Congress party, thoroughly misusing official machinery and police force, made people realise in a very short time about his real objectives, despite camouflage of so called development agenda,particulary when Amrinder Singh himself faced same accusations of corruption, as he has been charging Badal.Accusations against Amrinder were even worse than Badal. Not only Akalis and Congress, Amrinder even made CPI his adversay, who, was otherwise pro-Congress, by getting two of its MLA to Congress fold in a most arrogant and politically unwise manner, resulting in all left parties refusing to have no truck with Congress in Punjab in his leadership, though they were more anti Akali/BJP than Congress, resulting in Congress becoming almost untouchable ain Punjab.
Amrinder Singh bringing Khalistani elements in the Congress party, his own past record as signatory to Khalistan declaration alongwith his brother-in-law Simranjit Singh Mann revived the fears among urban Hindu population, which has now resulted in the rise of almost defunct BJP in Punjab. His attitude of abhorrence towards late Beant Singh family, removal of a better reputed Tej Prakash Singh from his ministry, taking no interest in completing Beant Singh memorial in Chandigarh, never or rarely attending any Beant Singh memorial meeting on his anniversaries, also made urban Hindu mind apprehensive of his designs. Keeping Rajinder Kaur Bhathal in his camp by sheer arm twisting by using lottery case, made Congress men behave like slaves before him. It is a hard fact that at the time of assassination of Chief Minister Beant Singh at the hands of Khalistanis, Amrinder Singh neither attended his cremation nor paid any condolence visit to his family. Though Prakash Singh Badal was present at cremation, alongwith Tohra and Chandumajra. Surinder Singh Kairon, an adversary of Beant Singh in Congress party, had visited Beant Singh family and offered condolences. By making such person Punjab Congress incharge and later Chief Minister, Congress party had made itself vulnerable from day one. Congress could claim the legacy of only two popular Congress leaders in Punjab, who, earned some respect, despite their drawbacks- these were Pratap singh Kairon, a freedom fighter himself, though got discredited later due to corruption charges and Beant singh, who revived Congress in Punjab by his fearless resistance to Khalistanis and thus getting assassinated in the process. Amrinder , in his feudal arrogance, could never show any respect to such legacy of Congress, which could have protected some of Congress base.
Amrinder, in his true feudal style, even reduced Congress organisational leaders to zero, by making B I S Chahal, a thoroughly controversial petty official, as the most powerful man after him in Punjab Govt. His relationship with him is shrouded in certain openly talked secrets, as giving him a status of Minister, has created even a storm in Congress party, which ultimately turned out to be a ‘storm in tea cup’ only, as Congressmen after making some noises started bowing to this ‘mini(on)maharaja’. Such misuse of authority was many times censored by even judicial courts, yet maharajas do not bother about courts, they are used only to hold ‘court’.
The fall of Amrinder and rise of Badal does not automatically bring relief to people. It has to be seen that to what extent Badals observe democratic norms and polite language in their political behaviour. Elder Badal is an astute politician and a graduate of pre partition F C College Lahore, with some suaveness, but the same can not be said of younger Badal, who, though educated in US, is having traits similar to Amrinder. How much he would be tempered in his conduct, only time will tell. Meanwhile election results have brought some respite from a thoroughly arrogated feudal mindset, till what time it will last, this again is a guess only. Perhaps after sometime people will start waiting for 2012.