- With elections in sight, ambitions begin to soar
With just nine months to go before the term of the Punjab legislature ends, the conflict in the ruling Congress tells a story about ambition and hunger for power. Dissidents have been firing salvos at Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh for much of his current term, causing embarrassment to their own government over alleged corruption, the inconclusive probe into sacrilege cases and last year’s horrible spurious liquor tragedy. Now, the knives have been sharpened — there is an insistent demand for a change of guard in the state leadership. There is strong sentiment in Punjab against the BJP-ruled Centre over the three contentious farm laws, the Akali Dal is still suspect in the eyes of the voters due to past association with the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party is also affected by factionalism and seems to have lost steam — the Congress leaders believe, thus, that power would be theirs for the taking when the elections are held early next year.
Over the past few days, Congress leaders have vigorously washed their dirty linen in public. The dissidents have accused the CM of being distant and autocratic; they have pointed to the criminal syndicates operating in the state, especially the land, sand, drug and illicit liquor mafias. Former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been vocal on the sacrilege cases of 2015, alleging that the chief minister is protecting the culprits. Capt Amarinder Singh and the loyalists have countered the allegations, accusing Sidhu of trying to undermine his own party’s government over political ambitions. As the party’s central leadership tries to douse the fire, an unfavorable picture of the leaders’ priorities emerges before the populace, struck by loss, sorrow and economic deprivation amid the pandemic. There are no reports that these issues were discussed with the central leadership — an indication of flawed priorities.
Currently, only three states in India have Congress chief ministers. In spite of the despair prevailing in Punjab — and indeed, all over the country — due to the pandemic, the party would have hopes of overcoming the anti-incumbency factor in the 2022 elections. Dissidence and ambition, however, have the potential to hurt its chances — as has happened in several other states.