The Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal row has old rivals back on the centre stage of Punjab politics that appears to be heading for a three-cornered contest with AAP entering the fray for the first time in the upcoming elections. The issue could not have resurfaced at a better time both for SAD and Congress. Both parties are leaving nothing to chance to rake up the emotive issue that lingers on for four decades now. On an unfortunate note, it also carries the stigma of pushing Punjab into dark era of militancy.
The incumbent SAD enters the Assembly polls after ruling for 10 years, which hints at a possibility of strong anti-incumbency among the public. Significantly, its image has been hit over the drugs issue and the setbacks on Panthic turfs, which is considered to be its core constituency. With the SYL issue coming up again after the SC’s decision on presidential reference pertaining to Termination of Agreements Act 2004, SAD is trying to project itself as the only party that can protect Punjab waters along with its ally BJP.
Punjab Cabinet has called an emergency session of Vidhan Sabha, which was otherwise not in the schedule of the poll-bound state. Akali patron and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal sought an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee on the issue. SAD-BJP combine has announced a mega rally at Moga “Paani Bachao, Punjab Bachao (Save water, save Punjab) on December 8.
On Friday, SAD Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha Prem Singh Chandumajra said that party will move adjournment motion in Parliament over the “Constitutional crisis” caused by the developments over the issue. “It is a non-Constitutional decision. For us, Constitution is bigger than judiciary and the governments,” Chandumajra said in Chandigarh. He also accused Congress of “running away from fight for Punjab’s interests by submitting resignations”. Blaming Congress for being the “root cause of the problem”, Chandumajra said, the resignations was a “failed attempt by Congress leaders to wash the stains of treachery”.
“Akali Dal aar paar di larayee larega (Akali Dal would fight a do or die battle),” said the Akali MP from Anandpur Sahib.
Accusing SAD of “mishandling the case in court”, Congress on the other hand announced a rally in Abohar at the tail end of proposed SYL canal on Sunday. Congress MLAs submitted their resignations on Friday and also announced to burn effigies of Badal in all 117 Assembly constituencies on Saturday. Congress Legislature Party will also seek an appointment with the President on the issue. Moments after the SC judgment on Thursday, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief and former chief minister of Punjab Capt Amarinder Singh resigned as Amritsar Member of Parliament.
While SAD has largely restricted itself to target Capt and Congress on SYL issue, Capt, besides the Akali bashing, on Saturday also trained his guns on AAP national convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal questioning his silence over the issue. Seeking an answer “on behalf of people of Punjab”, Capt said, “Why this sudden and strange silence, Mr. Kejriwal. Tell us clearly, Mr. Kejriwal, are you with Punjab or with Haryana and Delhi on the SYL issue.”
In an election which Congress earlier believed would have been a cakewalk for party in bi-party contest in the backdrop of ten-year of anti-incumbency, the emergence of AAP as a formidable player made things complicated even as both SAD and Congress believed that the AAP contesting polls would work to their respective advantage.