Months after political pundits virtually wrote off the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, considering the strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has turned the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue to his party’s advantage.
Not only has he brought the Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016 but also a resolution in the ongoing Assembly session today, but also said the state will not allow the construction of SYL in any way, especially after Supreme Court’s status quo on SYL, yesterday.
Badal’s aides say, he has decided in principle to take an extreme stance on the issue, even if it means going to jail for contempt of court or even stepping down as CM. “This is decided. He won’t mind giving up his chair as the Chief Minister,” said an Akali leader requesting anonymity.
Badal, who has only turned frail after a recent bout of acute respiratory infection, would not even mind spending a few days in jail as he has never missed an opportunity to make political capital out of his long stints in jail in the past.
As the day unfolded with Badal taking the extreme step, the Congress and AAP leaders are anticipating mid-term polls in Punjab. “Knowing Badal, he will not miss this opportunity. In all probability, he will create circumstances to go to jail and trigger mid-term polls. He knows he has the strong backing of farmers with him as of now,” said a senior Congress MLA.
Badal’s has been a masterstroke, literally snatching the SYL issue which Congress state chief Capt Amarinder Singh has been harping on for long. While theAkalis were known for their morchas to safeguard Punjab’s interests, Amarinder snatched their issue by bringing the Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill in 2004 while he was Chief Minister.
Ever since, Amarinder has made the SYL an issue in all the elections he has contested. He has been given a tag of ‘saviour of Punjab waters’ by his partymen.
But with one stroke, Badal brought the ball back in his court, and secured the backing of at least the farmers in Malwa region which will be most affected by SYL. He has undoubtedly given a lease of life to his party, at the receiving end for quite sometime as is evident from the frenzy witnessed alongside the SYL canal in the last three days.