WITH THE ruling SAD going for broke on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are bracing for the possibility of a snap election in the state.
Indications that the SAD may be thinking along these lines came on Friday when Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal tabled a resolution against the SYL canal a day after the Supreme Court order to maintain status quo at the canal site.
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The resolution was passed unanimously by the House. Badal’s remarks ahead of the resolution that directives from any quarter foisting a decision on Punjab against its interests was unacceptable to the people of the state, specifically alluding to the Supreme Court order, showed that SAD had upped the ante.
SAD is riding high after bringing the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016 in the Vidhan Sabha to return land acquired for the canal to the owners.
Assembly election in Punjab are due in early 2017, but in political circles, there is anticipation of a resignation by Badal to captialise on the present goodwill for the party, and go for elections before it dissipates. Even Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar mentioned in a speech in the Haryana Assembly that this was probably the Akali design behind their posturing on the SYL.
A Congress MLA said as the SYL goes through only a few districts of Malwa region the Akali turnaround may not be felt across the state, but nothing could be put past SAD. “We all know Badal well. We have to be prepared,” he said.
One MLA said the Akalis had grabbed what was originally a Congress platform and made it its own before the Congress could do anything with it.
Amarinder is known as the ‘saviour of Punjab waters’ among his partymen for the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004 when he was chief minister, but the title has now been snatched by the Akalis, Congress members rued.
A Congress legislator said some in the party had floated the idea to Amarinder a few days ago that he should pitch a tent by the canal and start filling it even if it meant getting arrested, “But somehow, that idea did not go further,” said a legislator. Another legislator had asked him to start a march along the canal. Amarinder publicly declared that he would do so, but did not announce dates.
The AAP is also watching the unfolding events with some unease. A senior party leader said they the party structure in the state was in place, so AAP was prepared in case of an early poll. But the party is still in the process of studying the state to prepare a manifesto. “That part will suffer if there is an early poll,” said the AAP leader.
A Badal aide told The Indian Express that the Chief Minister had decided in principle to take “an extreme stance” on the issue,”even if it means going to jail for contempt of court or even resigning. This has been decided. He would not mind giving up his chair as the Chief Minister.”
But he denied there was any thought about a snap poll.
CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi said Badal had failed to make a mark on the SYL issue. “They could not get the assent of the Governor on the bill,” he said.