Chandigarh: Three days before his birthday, Captain Amarinder Singh threw a lavish birthday party at his Siswan farmhouse Tuesday. The former Punjab chief minister — whose newly formed party Punjab Lok Congress has allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this assembly election — showed no signs of worry about the results as he regaled his friends, singing one of Jagjit Singh’s ghazals, “Baat niklegi to phir door talak jayegi”.
Sharing glimpses of the party, Amarinder’s close aide Pritpal Singh Baliawal tweeted a cryptic message: “Who were they who attended the party at Siswan? Any guesses (about) Congress and AAP? Be ready for the Shock! March 11 day of….”
अक्कड़ बक्कड़ बम्बे बो
रात जो Siswan आये थे कौन कौन थे वो ?
Be ready for the Shock !
— Pritpal Singh Baliawal (@PritpalBaliawal) March 9, 2022
On Thursday, with still a day to go for his 80th birthday, the former CM, who contested from Patiala Urban constituency, lost by nearly 20,000 vote to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Ajit Pal Singh Kohli who won the seat. His party did not win in any seat.
Initial trends had revived speculation in Punjab’s political circles about where Captain Amarinder goes from here, and whether this is where the curtains fall on his career as a politician.
Meetings with Amit Shah, other ministers
Since 20 February, the day Punjab went to polls, Amarinder has been a busy man. Union Minister for Jal Shakti and BJP in-charge for Punjab Gajendra Singh Shekhawat met with the former CM twice, senior BJP leaders told ThePrint.
On Monday, a day before his birthday bash-in-advance, Amarinder met Union Home Minister Amit Shah, following which he told reporters that the BJP-Punjab Lok Congress alliance performed well in the polls.
BJP’s national spokesperson R.P. Singh told ThePrint: “Captain Amarinder Singh is a prominent Jatt face in Punjab. He is a mass leader and nothing changes that. His alliance will remain an asset for the BJP.”
Captain’s political fate
However, there are murmurs that political leaders across party lines see no future for Captain Amarinder Singh from this point onwards.
“At the end of the day, the BJP alliance is not forming a government in Punjab. That’s it. Even if Amarinder Singh is rewarded, he can be given the post of governor or something. But he is not going to be as important in the Punjab political scene,” a political leader once known to be close to Amarinder, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
Amarinder was one of Congress’s most celebrated chief ministers at one point, having occupied Punjab’s top post for 9.5 years cumulatively, second only to Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) veteran leader Parkash Singh Badal (15 years) since the assassination of former CM and Congress leader Beant Singh in 1995.
Amarinder was “forced” to resign by the party high command in September 2021, after months of internal strife leading to a vertical split in the Punjab unit, with one camp of ministers and MLAs backing Amarinder and the other, state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Addressing a press conference following his resignation, Amarinder had said that he felt “humiliated,” and though “at the moment” he remained with the party, he had left “options open” for his “political future”.
Pramod Kumar, director at the Institute for Development and Communication in Chandigarh, told ThePrint that this is the end of Captain’s political career. “He emerged as one of the strongest regional leaders in 2002-07, but he squandered it all. Currently, I would say, people hardly see a mass leader in him. It is the end of his political career,” Kumar said.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)