NEW DELHI: Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced his plan to launch a new political party and forge a conditional alliance with the BJP for the forthcoming state assembly election expected to be held in the first quarter of 2022. The grand announcement is likely to result in an unprecedented political situation in Punjab politics.
Amarinder’s media adviser Raveen Thukral, in a series of three tweets on his behalf, said: “The battle for Punjab’s future is on. Will soon announce the launch of my own political party to serve the interests of Punjab and its people, including our farmers who’ve been fighting for their survival for over a year.
“Hopeful of a seat arrangement with @BJP4India in 2022 Punjab Assembly polls if #FarmersProtest is resolved in farmers’ interest. Also looking at alliance with like-minded parties such as breakaway Akali groups, particularly Dhindsa and Brahmpura factions.”
He finally said, “I will not rest till I can secure the future of my people and my state. Punjab needs political stability and protection from internal and external threats. I promise my people I will do what it takes to ensure its peace and security, which is at stake today.”
‘The battle for Punjab’s future is on. Will soon announce the launch of my own political party to serve the interes… https://t.co/lHw9WSCdnR— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) 1634660839000
Going by what Amarinder said, if the farmers’ issue is not resolved, there would be a five-cornered contest between the ruling Congress, principal opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP and Amarinder Singh’s party. A five-cornered contest would be unprecedented in Punjab’s political history.
If the BJP ties up with Amarinder’s party, even then there would be a four-cornered contest - which also would be for the first time ever.
Punjab has generally witnessed a bi-polar politics - between the Congress and the Akali Dal. SAD was a part of the BJP-led NDA at the Centre for over two decades, though the Akali party led the alliance in Punjab. The two were alliance partners till the 2017 assembly election and 2019 Lok Sabha election. They parted ways in September 2020 over the three farm laws.
The 2017 assembly election witnessed a three-way contest with AAP’s maiden entry. While the Congress, led by Amarinder as the chief ministerial face, won 77 seats in the 117-member assembly, AAP emerged as the principal opposition party by bagging 20 seats, SAD won 15 while its then alliance partner BJP garnered just 3 seats.
The SAD-BJP combine lost power to the Congress over issues of corruption, drug menace, family grip over administration, desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib which allegedly took place in Bargari on October 12, 2015 and the related police firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.
Amarinder Singh formed a government and was going strong till cricketer-turned-politician and former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu made his entry in the state politics. On the complaint of some MLAs and Sidhu in May this year, the Congress high command decided to review the works accomplished by the Amarinder government as per the promises made by the party in its manifesto ahead of the 2017 assembly election.
While Amarinder did not get an audience with either Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sidhu not just met both of them but was also successful in getting himself appointed as the Punjab Congress Pradesh Committee (PPCC) president.
Subsequently, in a major decision, Amarinder was replaced with Charanjeet Singh Channi as the CM last month. Amarinder felt humiliated and announced that he would quit the Congress.
Amarinder called Sidhu an “anti-national” for being friends with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan and that country’s army chief general Qamar Javed Bajwa. He pledged to “do anything” to stop Sidhu from becoming the CM.
In this process, Amarinder has announced that he would form his own political party and stitch an alliance with the BJP if the farmers’ protest was resolved.
These are the possibilities which the election results could throw up as a consequence of Amarinder’s latest announcement:
In case it is a five-cornered or even a four-cornered contest, there is a strong possibility of the state witnessing a hung assembly. A hung assembly in Punjab would be seen for the first time ever.
In the other possibility, the ruling Congress might turn out to be a beneficiary. There are chances that the anti-Congress votes might get divided between AAP, SAD, BJP and Amarinder’s party. This might help the Congress retain power.
In the third possibility, the Congress might lose the election and there could be a clear-cut winner among the remaining three-four parties.
If AAP succeeds in making a strong pitch for change and convinces the voters of it being an alternative to the Congress, it might come to power in the state for the very first time.
Otherwise, SAD has a chance to come back to power after five years. In a remote possibility, Amarinder-BJP combine may also register a surprise victory.