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The problem Rahul Gandhi has created for Amarinder Singh in Punjab by backing farmer protests

Amarinder Singh comes across as weak and indecisive as he hedges on tackling farmers vandalising Jio towers. The agitation could also end up helping revive AAP months ahead of Punjab polls.

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New Delhi: Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, always had an aura around him — of a firm and decisive politician with an uncluttered mind who could hold his own even against the Congress high command.

This image has taken a hit as he stands as a helpless spectator while Reliance Jio towers are vandalised in Punjab by farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws. The CM, who had taken out a tractor rally in support of farmers, finds no takers for his appeal to not indulge in vandalism. The state police haven’t registered any FIR so far, with Amarinder still weighing the pros and cons of acting against farmers.

Congress functionaries closely associated with him tell ThePrint that Amarinder is “extremely concerned” about the possibility of the farmers’ agitation getting out of hand but remains clueless about his own plan of action. This display of weakness and indecisiveness is quite uncharacteristic of the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, who has had an outstanding track record in public life.

In his assessment, say Amarinder’s associates, the agitation that was expected to hurt his political adversaries may end up damaging the reputation of his government and also his political prospects, with the assembly election barely 13 months away.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) might have lost much ground for being a part of the Central government that brought these farm laws, but it’s the prospect of the Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) revival that is haunting Congressmen in Punjab.

ThePrint reached Amarinder Singh’s office via telephone, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.


Also read: Why discuss polish over China-Pak threat, House panel a joke, says Amarinder on Rahul walkout


AAP revival & Punjab’s identity politics

The AAP’s influence in the state was on the wane but Congress leaders believe that Arvind Kejriwal’s party has been able to make “considerable gains” through its pro-active support of the farmers’ agitation. On 27 December, Kejriwal also went to Singhu border to extend support to them.

“The attacks on Jio towers and targeting of corporate houses may scare away many investors from Punjab. All that Captain has done as chief minister in the past four years will be forgotten if there is a serious law and order situation in the election year,” a Congress MP told ThePrint.

Amarinder, say Congress sources, would like the farmers to end their agitation, given that the Narendra Modi government is ready to guarantee continuation of minimum support price (MSP) and make amendments in the laws to address other concerns of the farmers.

It’s clear that the Centre will not repeal the laws and farmers have nothing more to gain from stridency, but “leaders like Joginder Ugrahan have a different agenda”, say Congressmen.

The chief minister seems to be caught between the proverbial devil and the deep sea. With former-and-would-be Congress president Rahul Gandhi strongly backing the farmers’ agitation, Amarinder can’t openly differ with or disapprove their course of action or act against vandals. But, it would be politically suicidal to be seen as a weak CM who stands as a mute spectator to a worsening law and order situation and also lets the AAP regain its lost ground.

There are also apprehensions among Congressmen that if the farmers’ agitation, largely led by Sikhs, continues and turns ugly at some stage, it may lead to the resurfacing of identity politics in Punjab, a scary prospect that the CM can’t ignore.


Also read: How faction-ridden AAP in Punjab is looking to turn farmers’ agitation into an advantage


 

A once-decisive Amarinder Singh

There was a time when Singh was decisive. In 1984, he had quit the Congress over Operation Blue Star and joined the Akali Dal. He returned to the party 14 years later.

Ahead of the 2017 assembly election, when Rahul Gandhi was seeking to undermine Amarinder and was toying with the idea of projecting a different leader as the CM face, the Capt. put his foot down and forced the Congress high command to back off. Rahul Gandhi’s lieutenants in Punjab have been targeting him, of late, but he has just ignored them.

A story that one often hears in Congress circles is when a party leader once suggested to Amarinder that he should start calling Rahul Gandhi “Rahul ji”. The CM laughed it off, saying he was Rajiv Gandhi’s classmate in Doon School and so Rahul should call him ‘uncle’. It may be an apocryphal story but it shows how Congressmen regard Amarinder for holding his own.

At 78, Capt. Amarinder Singh seems to be losing his mojo as he falters in dealing with the farmers’ agitation. He seems inclined to comply with Rahul Gandhi’s wishes and look away when vandals threaten to throw Punjab into turmoil, again.

Amid this looming political crisis, Amarinder also has to deal with Central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate, which has summoned his son, Raninder, in a FEMA violation case.

As the adage goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But the moot question is whether Capt. Amarinder Singh is still the tough politician that he was once.


Also read: BJP’s Harinder Khalsa who quit party over farm laws is ex-IFS officer, had stints in AAP, SAD


 

 

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20 COMMENTS

  1. The writer of the article needs to do proper research ,stop writing articles based on half baked truths. Amrinder himself had backed farmers protest, there is no conflict between him and Rahul.

  2. I THINK a SOLDIER LIKE AMRINDER SINGH a man with self respect and honour shouldn’t waste his time amongst rootless people and instead join BJP .

  3. Firstly These Towers Being Damaged By Uneducated Frustrated Types Jumping On The Farmers Protest Bandwagon Are So Gormless Not To Know Who Brought Them Too The Punjab State In The First Place Answer The Fake/Crooked Badal Clan And There Partners In Crime Bjp, Capt Singh Who Has Done Sweet F.A In His Second Time In Office Has Just Been Swept Away In The Stench Created By The Centre Govt. What He Should Be Doing Is Following The Carrot/Stick Policy Otherwise The Centre Is looking For the Just Moment To Sack His Govt And Apply Presidents Rule Claiming Law/Order Problems.

  4. When farmers first protested in Punjab itself they seriously hurt its economy; their rail rohko would have plunged Punjab in power crisis in a week. So Amrinder directed the away from Punjab to Delhi, towards modi.
    Problem is Amrinder is thinking like an Army captain, forgetting that the farmers are not disciplined solideirs who will obey his command and not indulge in violence.

  5. Property damage is not violence, unless you identify with the capitalist. Change is coming to Punjab and people like Arminder Singh and Badal will be swept aside. As for guaranteeing the MSP, then it should be no problem to put it into legislation and make it law. The farmers greatest concern is the corporate takeover of the entire supply chain and no one has provided any solutions for the countervailing power that will have oversight of corporate control and power.

    • My greatest concern is your utter idiocy and how you’ve been allowed to run amok. Also don’t see any solutions to it. Happy to abuse you as corporate, capitalist schmuck or whatever gets you excited. Should I then be allowed to destroy your property? Remember it’s not violence as per your logic.

  6. There is no way aap will ever win punjab elections. Agriculture bill agitations have postponed their total demise, they will certainly win some seats this time but you can call the upcoming elections as the last one for them.
    A lot of people fail to see the utter clueless way in which their organisation works, they don’t have proper hierarchies, and a non sustainable system of their cadre will not last long. Congress on the other hand is also infested with infighting and lacks organisational discipline but they have a loyal vote bank and leader at every level. If bjp does take away their urban voter in punjab then congress will remain the no. 1 party in punjab.

    • Hi which periodicals do you read regularly to gather such insights? I am trying to read more. Thank you 🙂

  7. In the previous state elections in Punjab, AAP was involved with separatist elements, particularly from Canada. Once again AAP is fishing in troubled waters. But unfortunately the mainstream media is so invested in Shri Arvind Kejriwal, they are are not able to see the danger of his politics. The Print in an article today, in fact has eulogised his appearance in Indian politics as the most important event of the decade.

  8. rahul gandhi (and other gantdhis) have become a mascot of ” shani” . unless they leave congress, there is no scope for revival

  9. Rahul Gandhi is not a leader by any stretch of imagination. He keeps jumping between issues with no clarity whatsoever and no uniformity in stance either. His actions are more activist like rather than a political leader. It is the misfortune of Congress and to a certain degree the nation that the rest of Congress is not even concerned about the state of the leadership , its own ideologies and what it stands for. The farmer protests are being used as yet another experiment to unsettle the government but I am afraid it is also slowly exposing the lack of clarity in the demands as well as what it seeks to ultimately achieve thereby exposing the hollowness too.

  10. Destroying telecommunications infrastructure and damaging commercial property is “protesting by farmers”.
    This is the Congress for you – it’s a crime syndicate.

  11. Rahul “Ji” & the Congress have no qualms about damaging India’s economy, causing irreparable harm to India’s reputation and causing serious law & order problems in the country.
    Is this “Ji” a “leader” of a political party? Is this “political party” or a national criminal organisation?

  12. This is a good example of conflict between Congress interest and Rahul / anti Modi interest ( Some would say anti-national interests grp. Continuation of agitation and lawlessness would impact Congress not only in next election cycle but a decade. Middle ground will ensure face saver or mild victory for Amerinder and face saver for BJP. It will even help Rahul/Congress at national level in long run but not in short term. On the other hand violence will be bad for Modi/Amerinder but will give brownie point to Rahul to tweet about. Guess what Rahul wants.

  13. If the law and order deteriorates in Punjab, obviously the control of the agitation has gone into hands of people other than ones who supported it. Someone described congress like a monkey pulling out the wedge from a half cut log while sitting on it. NOW THE TAIL IS STUCK And THE WEDGE IS IN HAND NOT KNOWING HOW TO PUT IT BACK TO FREE THE TAIL.
    Damaging the towers could just lead to shutting down the mobile services, something so important to sustain the agitation. Scaring away the investors will come later.
    Wonder if a law passed by the parliament can be just torn away like the ordinance was.

  14. Not a single one from the commentariat criticized rahul and sometimes kejriwal for using “ambani adani” jibe. They could have just said “suit boot ki sarkar” and be done with it. Instead rahul the dumb leader he is kept on using the names of ambani and adani as if they are the ones who brought the law. Targeting individual businesses without a shred of evidence is no different from targeting individuals. This only hurts our own growth. To destroy towers would disrupt all services dependant on internet….imagine students studying on online classes, hospital servers, banking networks. But then if only rahul ever understood logic. I have also seen protestors forcibly shutting down godowns and forcing the workers go home….are you all nuts? Call out the leaders who are responsible for this. And treat the vandals as the vandals they are. Disappointed with captain. He is much smarter than rahul and could have ensured businesses aren’t targeted. Too disappointing. It will only hurt the Punjab state.

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