Updated: September 18, 2021 8:37:11 pm
The resignation of Capt Amarinder Singh from the post of the chief minister of Punjab, capping months of internal tussle within the Congress and just ahead of the next Assembly election, was long overdue and something that should have been done much earlier as he had lost connect with the masses. The Congress, however, is likely to feel the pinch as it does not have a mass leader of Amarinder’s stature in state.
This is the general feeling in Punjab which had voted the Congress, led by Amarinder, to a landslide victory in 2017 Assembly election giving the party 77 seats in the 117-member Vidhan Sabha. It later won three more seats in the bypolls held in October 2019 taking its strength to 80. Apart from anti-incumbency against the Shiromani Akali Dal, it were some of the key promises made by Amarinder — punishing the main culprits behind sacrilege and police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, ending the drug menace, and cancellation of the faulty power purchasing agreements (PPAs) among others — that helped the party secure victory. However, ahead of the polls early next year, discontent had been simmering over the unfulfilled promises.
Balbir Singh, who retired from the state transport department and now lives in Bathinda, said, “This (resignation) should have come about a year ago. Captain did good work in his previous term (2002-07), but he failed to deliver this time. He couldn’t fulfil the tall promises he made, making it difficult even for local Congress leaders to go out in public. Moreover, he remained inaccessible to his own ministers, let alone meeting the public”.
He said Congress will now have a valid excuse when it starts campaign for 2022 polls with a new CM face.
Agrees Gora Singh Bhainibagha, the senior vice president of Punjab Kisan Union. “They (Congress) made so many promises and couldn’t fulfil them. People had started questioning them. The party took this step to slow down and halt the anti incumbency wave. It seems they took lessons from the BJP, which twice changed its chief minister in Uttarakhand and recently in Gujarat. Now, a new face will not be questioned as much by the public when Congress goes back to the masses with the excuse that they removed the CM,” said Gora Singh, a resident of Bhainibagha village in Mansa.
Sarwan Singh Pandher, a Gurdaspur-based farmer and general secretary of Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee too said that Amarinder’s resignation has come as the Congress failed to deliver on its promises and was staring at anti-incumbency. “This last moment action may give some benefit to Congress. The promises it made in 2017 were too tall to be fulfilled. Congress was left with no face to go back to public. Moreover, Amarinder often spoke the language that (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak. He even agreed to submitting the land records of farmers before paddy procurement season. He agreed upon many things that Centre wanted, but were against farming community,” said Pandher.
“Initially, when the the agitation against the three central agri laws began, Amarinder, as Punjab CM, had got several FIRs lodged against the farmers. Later, when movement picked momentum, he stepped back. It (his resignation) is a planned step ahead of 2022 polls,” he added.
A progressive farmer from Lakhowal village in Ludhiana and who is also the president of PAU Kisan Club, Amarinder Singh, said the resignation should have come a year ago. “It was delayed most probably due to the ongoing farmers’ agitation. It is one of the first steps taken the Congress to revive its fortunes. They have taken copied from the BJP playbook to fight anti incumbency. This action may help the party gain some sympathy of voters,” he said.
“This is the outcome of internal feud of Congress and fight for chair and supremacy. We, the voters, have been used as puppets. Congress leaders had been fighting for long, so something of this sort was expected.. A new CM won;t be able to do much,” said Jeetendra Garg, a Mansa-based Arhtiya.
The mood in Amarinder’s native village Mehraj, meanwhile, was sombre with not too many people eager to talk about the big development in Punjab politics. A big village in Bathinda, Mehraj has now now become a nagar panchayat. Seera Singh, a farmer from Saul Patti of Mehraj, feels Amarinder has been made the scapegoat by the Congress amid the internal feud and the party will face its consequences. He, however, added that while in his previous tenure , “Amarinder changed the skyline of this village”, in his second tenure “he didn’t come to the village after winning the election in 2017”.
“His ancestors had made the village their home after coming from Rajasthan. We will always have a soft corner for him. Anyone from Mehraj going to his office was always entertained,” added Seera Singh.
Dr Sumit Gupta, a psychiatrist based in Jalandhar and Bobby Jindal, general secretary of Punjab Dyers Association, said the Congress has made a mistake by removing Amarinder.
“It is a blunder. We trusted Congress only because of Capt Amarinder Singh. In 2017, they won because of him and now have forced him to resign. Ahead of polls, this step will not work at all,” said Gupta.
Jindal added: “This is going to harm the Congress. The factions withing the Congress will continue to remain at loggerheads”.
Dr Ravindra Vatsyayan, a renowned Ayurvedacharya based in Ludhiana too had a similar take. “This is a betrayal of the worst kind. The man who single handedly led Congress to power in Punjab has been summarily shown the door. Nothing can be more humiliating. Vinash-kaale viprit buddhi”.
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