Captain Amarinder Singh, former Punjab chief minister and once stalwart of the Congress, officially joined the BJP on Monday (September 19). Changing track in the twilight of his long political career, what can the move bring Amarinder? How much can he help the fortunes of the BJP in Punjab? We explain.
For 80-year-old Amarinder Singh, joining the BJP will give him a new lease of life as he had gone into political wilderness after the recent Punjab Assembly elections, in which the AAP stormed to power. The political party he founded in the run-up to the elections, Punjab Lok Congress (PLC), could not make its presence felt at all, with all party nominees, including the former CM, losing badly.
While Amarinder is unlikely to get any active role in electoral politics owing to his age, it is believed that his daughter, Jai Inder Kaur, who is active in the political arena in Patiala, could be fielded by the BJP in the 2024 Parliamentary elections. As for Amarinder himself, a PLC leader said there have been discussions about appointing him as a Governor or Lieutenant Governor, or inducting him into the Central cabinet through the Rajya Sabha route.
Through this move, the political veteran hopes to end his career on a high note.
What the BJP hopes for
For the BJP, which is going all out to enhance its footprint in Punjab, the two-time CM can come in handy as it now has a known Sikh face in its fold. Amarinder’s ideology and nationalistic approach, sections in the BJP believe, resonate equally among the Hindu community, the core constituency of the BJP.
Amarinder is believed to gel with the BJP as he has espoused a ‘nationalist’ ideology, raising concerns about Pakistan pushing arms, ammunition and drugs in Punjab to create unrest. Also, he is understood to enjoy a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah.
The flip side
However, not everyone is sure of the benefits Amarinder can bring to the BJP.
The Captain had a clout of his own, larger than the Congress party he belonged to, until September 2021, when he was unceremoniously removed as Punjab chief minister by the party high command. In fact, the 2017 victory of Congress in Punjab was largely attributed to the charismatic personality of Amarinder.
His previous stint as Punjab chief minister between 2002 and 2007 had earned him the distinction of being the ‘savior of Punjab waters’, by unilaterally terminating water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states. He was also praised for acting tough against arch-rivals the Badals.
But after he returned as CM in 2017, voters did not find Amarinder in the same element and his credibility eroded steadily. A long-time political colleague of Amarinder said, “The BJP is mistaken if it thinks that they have inducted an asset into the party. He will end up being a liability.”