Bhagwant on stay of Gangster Ansari

Mann: To Recover Rs 55L Spent On Gangster Ansari’s Stay From Captain, Randhawa

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday announced that the state government would not pay Rs 55 lakh spent on the cosy stay of the dreaded gangster Mukhtar Ansari in the Jails of the state and will recover this money from former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Chief Minister said that this was a serious crime against the state and its people adding that those involved will have to pay for it.
“For reasons best known to them, both Captain and Randhawa extended largesse to the notorious gangster for his comfortable stay in the jails of Punjab,” said Mann.

Bhagwant Mann asked why the state should waste taxpayer’s money just because those in power at that time had a strong bond with Ansari.

“This is brazen loot of the public money which cannot be tolerated,” said Mann. He said that for reasons best known to the previous regimes this notorious criminal was kept in Ropar Jail with full comforts.

Bhagwant Mann said that apart from ensuring a comfortable stay, the state government also ensured that this hardcore criminal did not face any sort of difficulty within the jail and escaped legal action against him.

“Surprisingly the then government spent Rs. 55 lakhs of the taxpayers’ money to safeguard the interests of this criminal lodged in Ropar Jail,” said Punjab CM.

Bhagwant Mann said that this atrocious loot of the public money is totally unwarranted and undesirable adding, “This open plundering of the common man’s money cannot be tolerated at any cost.”

He said that Captain and Randhawa will have to pay this money from their own pocket else their pensions and other benefits will be stopped to recover this money adding that everyone involved in this heinous crime will be made accountable for their sins. (ANI)

Read more:

‘Centre Must Step In…’ Amarinder On Punjab Law & Order Situation

‘Centre Must Step In…’ Amarinder On Punjab Law & Order Situation

With reference to the Ajnala incident, former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday said if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government cannot handle law and order, the Centre should intervene to deal with the situation.

Speaking to ANI on Sunday, the former Punjab CM said, “He (CM Bhagwant Mann) is not interested on what is going on in Punjab. He is afraid of taking any step. Police officials may have got orders not to take any step during the Ajnala incident. The law and order has deteriorated in Punjab.”

“No government can run like this, the way this government is running. The day when Ajnala incident took place, Bhagwant Mann was sitting in Mumbai with Arvind Kejriwal,” he added.

Notably, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Friday called on former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray at his Mumbai residence.

Captain Amarinder Singh further raised concerns about the internal security of the country.

“The law and order situation in Punjab is horrible. The law and order is not the Centre’s subject. If they (Punjab government) are not able to handle it then the central government will have to take charge. There are drones getting caught every single day, I think the Centre must see it,” he said.

Thousands of supporters of Amritpal Singh, a Khalistan sympathizer, had on Thursday staged a massive demonstration in Amritsar to protest against the arrest of his aide Lovepreet Singh Toofan.

The supporters, who were holding swords and guns in their hands, broke through police barricades erected outside Ajnala police station.

The police later said “in the light of the evidence presented”, it has been decided that Lovepreet Singh Toofan will be discharged.

Lovepreet Singh was released from jail on Friday following orders of a court in Ajnala on an application by the police.

A day after Ajnala incident in which some policemen were injured, DGP Gaurav Yadav said that appropriate action will be taken against the people involved.

After the clash between supporters of the chief of suspected pro-Khalistan outfit ‘Waris Punjab De’, Amritpal Singh, and Punjab Police erupted in Ajnala, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Friday said the law and order situation is under control.

‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh said the incident concerning Ajnala police station in Amritsar on February 23 could have been avoided if police were alert and his aide Lovepreet Singh Toofan had not been arrested.

Amritpal Singh said in an interview with ANI that the incident and subsequent release of Lovepreet Singh will “change the course of the future”.

Amritpal’s supporters, some of them brandishing swords and other weapons, stormed Ajnala police station on Thursday over their demand for the release of Lovepreet Singh.

Asked about Punjab DGP Gaurav Yadav’s remarks that there will be action regarding the Ajnala incident, Amritpal Singh said that the senior police official cannot say he was not aware of the case.

“We are going through the cycle…They way it happened before, it could have been avoided if they were alert. The DGP could not say that he did not know about the case. It was not that he did not know about the case. The decision could have been made earlier. The guy should not have been arrested. We will not run away and hide somewhere. It’s not that I am going to hide somewhere. No, I will not. I will get killed. I will face everything, I will not hide anywhere,” he said.

Amritpal Singh said Punjab Police acted in a hurry based on wrong intelligence reports and authorities gave false information about him that he does not have support.

“When I am going to the public, this could happen any day if you have enough evidence to charge me. What they did was in hurry and based on wrong intelligence reports. I do not show everything on social media. They had some pressure and gave false information to the Central government that Amritpal Singh does not have any support in Punjab and he is isolated,” he said.

Invoking ‘Operation Blue Star’, Amritpal said it was a moment of “trauma” for Sikhs and continues to be.

“When Golden temple was attacked and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was killed, it might have been a happy moment for many people, but it was a trauma for Sikhs. It is still a trauma. You don’t care about the judgment of law and society because you are the society. Not a single Hindu was attacked in Punjab…….When (former Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi was killed, Sikhs…were attacked,” he said.

Amritpal , a suspected Khalistan sympathiser, said allegations were made against Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and huge money was spent “to destroy his image”.

“When someone is in the power, they have the power to make anything evil. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is evil in the eyes of the Indian people, and Indira Gandhi might be a hero. But that does not change our idea of us. We will love him. India has control over all the resources to make him evil and it did it. Billions of dollars were spent to destroy his image and to put allegations against him. But what happened? There is no village here that will not have his pictures. Youth is inspired, they did not see him. But what happens? The suppression finds its way come out of slavery,” Amritpal said.

The head of the Sikh religious sect Damdami Taksal, Bhindranwale, was killed along with his armed followers during Operation Blue Star launched by the Indian Army at the Golden Temple complex.

Amritpal also said steps should be taken to make policing system better.

“The Indian people should reconsider the policing system in the country. It is still pre-1947. The way they interrogate people, the way they pick them up, the way they work. Courts are filled with such cases because the policing system is not right. It’s not the problem of the police, but of the law. They have to change the law to make policing system better and make things more transparent,” he said.

‘Waris Punjab De’ was founded by activist Deep Sidhu, who died in a road accident in February last year. (ANI)

Read More:

Capt. Amarinder

Capt. Amarinder Joins BJP, Merges Punjab Lok Congress With The Party

Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh formally joined the BJP on Monday at the party headquarters here in the presence of union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Kiren Rijiju.

Amarinder Singh also merged his party, Punjab Lok Congress (PLC), with the BJP.
Earlier in the day, Capt. Amarinder met BJP chief JP Nadda in Delhi.

Talking to reporters at the BJP headquarters, Amarinder said he was grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and the BJP president, JP Nadda.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju hailed Capt. Amarinder joining the party and said right-thinking people of the country should be united.

“A sensitive state like Punjab should be handled carefully. During his tenure as CM, he never kept politics before national security,” Rijiju said.

Amarinder made the announcement of joining the BJP after he met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on September 12 in Delhi.

Amarinder Singh served Congress for long years and resigned as Chief Minister in September last year ahead of assembly polls.

He later also resigned from the Congress and formed Punjab Lok Congress which tied up with BJP and SAD (Sanyukt) for the assembly polls held early this year.

Amarinder Singh‘s joining the BJP is a big shot in the arm for the party in the border state. The BJP now has a credible Sikh face in Punjab who has been active in state politics for several decades. (ANI)

Punjab Chief Minister

Captain Amarinder Singh To Join BJP On Monday

Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will join the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday.

According to Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) spokesperson Pritpal Singh Baliawal, Amarinder Singh is also likely to merge his party PLC with the BJP in the national capital on September 19.
The development comes days after Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.

“Had a very productive meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah Ji. Discussed various issues pertaining to National security, the rising cases of narco-terrorism in Punjab and the future roadmap for the overall holistic development of Punjab,” Singh had tweeted.

Captain Amarinder Singh who broke ties with Congress ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections had fought the polls in alliance with BJP. (ANI)

Read More:

‘If AAP Fails To Deliver, Punjabis Will Never Forgive It’

Jashan Gill, a Punjab voter who defied family loyalties to pick AAP over Akali Dal and Congress, says the party stands at a juncture from where it can make or break its future

In 2014 General Election, it was for the first time that I voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Punjab has been enthusiastic about the party since its inception. And this was the reason, four AAP candidates were elected to the Lok Sabha on their debut contest from the state.

In the assembly election of 2017, the AAP emerged as the main opposition with 20 seats. And now, in 2022, eight years since its journey began in Punjab, the party has been able to form government in the state with a clear mandate. Punjab’s voters found them as a viable alternative to the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

This change was impending for long. Both the SAD and the Congress had been unable to fulfil the expectations of the people of Punjab. The border regions of the state have been infested with drugs menace and there is widespread belief that the SAD has a vested interest in it. During their rule, the corruption in the state also reached at its zenith.

Punjabis therefore rooted out the Badal government in 2017 in favour of the Congress. But the Congress didn’t fulfil its promises either. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh became too complacent after the win and forgot about his poll promises of development.

The situation at the party further deteriorated when inside scuffle broke out in the open, making it a laughing stock. The chaos was too much to bear. Even during election people didn’t know who would be the chief minister of the state if the Congress came to the power.

Gill (left) says Punjab has high expectations from Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal

This clearly turned people’s attention towards the AAP leadership. The party projected Bhagwant Mann as the chief ministerial candidate in the state election and the decision found favour with the voters. For, in the past eight years, since 2014 general election, Mann has done commendable work in his constituency and showed his commitment towards the people. It was no surprise that Punjab gave him a chance to work for the entire state.

ALSO READ: Punjab Will Reclaim It Glory Under AAP Leadership

We have already started witnessing the change since AAP came to power in the state. The first priority of the party, which was about stopping corruption has already been enforced. The government employees, who would brazenly ask for bribes earlier, are now scared of making such demands from people. They are afraid of stern actions now.

The conditions of hospitals and schools in the state is already showing improvement. You can visit a hospital and feel the change in the atmosphere. We believe that Mann government will also address the issue of drugs soon. Farmers too have a lot of expectations from this new government. They believe that the AAP leadership will find a solution to receding water table and provide minimum support price for all their crops.

If the party successfully fulfils its promise in the state, it will pave a path for the party to emerge as an alternative to the BJP in other states and eventually at the Centre. As an AAP supporter I hope that it emerges as a challenger in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana where elections are likely to happen late this year.

AAP is standing at a crucial juncture in Punjab from where it can write its own future. Punjabis have put their faith in AAP and if they fail to keep their promises, the people will never forgive them. It will be uprooted from the state once and for all. The people of Punjab have voted for development and they will not settle for anything except development.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

Now Punjab Has A Future

For over four decades, Punjab has been used by national parties for electoral strategies. From Congress Party’s Indira Gandhi who tried to break the Akalis in 1978 after they frustrated her ‘infamous Emergency’ to the Akali Dal’s Badals who treated the state as their fiefdom, to Congress’ Amarinder Singh who could not stop playing the Maharajah and the BJP that tried to break the farming sector, Punjab has only seen violence, divisions, underinvestment, frustration, corruption, drugs and brain drain. Can Kejriwal reverse Punjab’s fortunes?

The Punjab state has tremendous potential. It has a very hard working population that made the Green Revolution possible and end food poverty in India during the 1960s. But this community of farmers has come under repeated pressures from Indian policy makers attempting to change small family farms to commercial farming.

Punjab had some leading educational institutions. Many of these have suffered from lack of investment and brain drain. Mostly they have suffered during the period of unrest when many a young Punjabi was either killed in infamous extrajudicial executions or ran to the West seeking sanctuary. A whole generation of educated Punjabis is missing from Punjab. Further, there is lack of job opportunities. The quality of education institutions and the job market feed on each other.

Punjabis are generally straightforward people and deeply passionate about their culture, language and beliefs. But for nearly two decades, the Akali Dal under the Badals managed to divide the population on religion, caste, political ideals and religious sects. There have been numerous incidents of sacrilege, of intracommunal violence and general distrust among people during their rule.

As a border state, Punjabis tried hard to avoid drugs that came from Afghanistan enroute to rest of the world. But a well-developed network of suppliers with patronage from politicians and allegedly the police have plunged many families into chaos as young men and women become addicted. Neither the Badals (Akalis) nor the Congress Amarinder Singh were able to tackle the issue. In fact a few Akali leaders are facing charges of involvement in the narcotic business. Amarinder Singh who took a holy vow to reverse drug business within four weeks if elected, left the CM office with increase in number of addicts in Punjab.

One of the tragedies of Punjab’s recent history is the issue of Foreign Direct Investment. It was a key issue in the Anandpur Sahib resolution put forward by the Akalis, who complained that Punjab is not being allowed to attract investment from its large diaspora. Under Dr Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in 1990s, states were given freedom to go and get FDI. Many states, such as Karnataka, Bengal, Gujrat etc took full advantage and their economies boosted with FDIs.

In the 90s, Punjab had unrest and violence. However after 2000 this was largely absent. The Badals came to power. Many a Punjab patriotic Sikh businessperson settled in the rich West wanted to invest, set up industry, technical institutions, IT companies etc. As the initial wave of enthusiasts tried to invest in Punjab’s future, they soon abandoned their efforts.

They met with corruption, red tape, harassment and demands for free shares, sometimes up to 25 percent of the company. Commercially it simply didn’t make sense to invest in Punjab. Frustrated, some took their money to other states in India. But the vast majority of otherwise successful business Punjabis in the West, decided to abandon their patriotism for Punjab. The people of Punjab were deprived of becoming an economic giant in India.

The 2022 election has swept the cobwebs that kept Punjab back and brought Kejriwal’s AAP as an electoral tsunami. The Punjabis have come together after decades to elect one party together. Until now there was the large Sikh Akali camp and the equally significant Hindu vote bank. Parties nurtured this division as their base but formed coalitions to form Government in Punjab. Year 2022 has changed that. Hindus and Sikhs have voted together for their future.

Akali Dal, the traditional party that gave Sikhs an identity, has been abandoned by Sikhs in their thousands in Punjab. Many suspect the Badals of cynical complicity or at least complacency in the several incidents of sacrilege, abuse of religious institutions and misappropriation of Gurdwara funds. So much was the anger among Sikhs that the father-son duo have even have lost their seats. Their relatives have been rejected by the Sikhs. This party that once gave Punjab a glorious history, only managed to gain four seats out of 117.

ALSO READ: The Tale Of Two Punjabs

The Punjabis are astute people. They want a future. They don’t want communalism, unrest or being taken advantage of by national parties. They had no choice. But one finally came along.

Arvind Kejriwal has travelled a long road to Punjab. Not being a Punjabi, he had little understanding of the Punjabis. He was rebuffed in the past. However his attitude and demeanour changed over the years as he got to know the Sikhs and the Punjabis in general.

Kejriwal comes with a clean slate. He has improved the schools, hospitals, roads and civic life in Delhi. People are happy with his management and rule. In Delhi, he has no power over the police. He cannot interfere in their appointments or censor their activities. He cannot control law and order in Delhi.

Punjab is the first real state where AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) under Kejriwal now has almost complete power. Expectations are high. Here he will have control over the police through his Chief Minister. Here he has the possibility of bringing changes and set priorities for law and order. He has the scope to rid Punjab of the drug menace, police corruption, brutality and destroy the police-politician nexus.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Maan is also known as an honest person. Under Kejriwal’s direction he can address many of the simmering grievances that have led to protests, unrest and which pushed people to finally reject both Akalis and Congress. If he shows courage, he might put a few of the political leaders engaged in nefarious activities, behind bars. He might start a crackdown on drug barons.

AAP in Punjab also has the possibility of reversing the missing Foreign Direct Investments. With the right incentives and by checking corruption, Maan can make Punjab an attractive place to invest for the many Punjabi patriots around the world. Punjab has the potential to become one of the most advanced economies in India. It just needs a Government with the political will to do that with investments in infrastructure, institutions, making investment streams easier and getting rid of ‘percentages’ for politicians, bureaucrats and police officers.

AAP will also need to address cultural and religious issues that have been exploited by previous politicians. Some of these politicians will be trying to ignite them again to mire AAP governance into communal quicksand.  AAP will need to show political skills to deal with that. Delhi is a metropolis. Punjab isn’t. Identities, beliefs and taboos matter here.

With the right approach and investment, AAP can start a regrowth of Punjab, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and put Punjab back on the path to recovery. It can bring back communal harmony. Punjab is the real test for Kejriwal and the potential to be the stepping stone for AAP to win in other states. It will not be easy as other parties try to trip it, but if he succeeds, AAP can become an alternative force in Indian politics. As usual Punjab is the beacon that leads.

Who Will Win Punjab?

Past record shows that the outcome of the Municipal Corporation elections in Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab, has no impact on the Assembly elections which follow a little later in the state.

This time, however, there is an important takeaway from the Corporation elections held a couple of months before the Assembly elections in Punjab. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerged as the largest party for the first time in any elections outside Delhi. The party, which is making a determined attempt to wrest power in Punjab, has received a major boost with its cadres gaining confidence that it can win elections outside the national capital.

Another important factor in the Corporation elections was the multiplicity of contests. Besides the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, the AAP, the Shiromani Akali Dal, a large number of independents in the fray had made it a multi-cornered contest with comparatively small number of electors in each ward. In at least five wards the margin of victory was only in double digits.

The coming elections in Punjab too are set to be multi-cornered contests with the emergence of the alliance between Capt Amarinder Singh and BJP, the SAD-BSP alliance, the Congress, the AAP and now also the Kisan Samaj Morcha formed by farmers’ organisations, besides the independents. The current possibility of five-cornered contests would definitely leave the field wide open with various parties eating into each other’s vote banks and making the task of predicting the outcome a near impossibility.

It is in this context that an analysis of the past electoral trends would be significant and relevant to the ensuing elections.

For over three decades, the state had witnessed a straight contest between the SAD and the Congress. This changed last time when the AAP entered the fray and changed the political equations. Several electoral surveys had predicted an AAP victory given the disenchantment with the other two political parties.

The Congress emerged victorious with a thumping majority of 77 seats out of a total of 117 at stake thanks to a large extent to the division of votes in the three-cornered contest. SAD won 15 seats (besides three by its alliance partner BJP) against the tally of 20 for the AAP and two for its alliance partner. But what’s significant is that the SAD finished second in no less than 43 seats while AAP finished second only in 26 seats. Akalis got lesser number of seats than AAP but received more votes.

ALSO READ: Farm Laws – Winners, Losers And The Future

SAD got 25.3 per cent of the total votes polled as against AAP’s 23.8 per cent. Add to that the 5.4 per cent votes polled by the then SAD’s alliance partner, the BJP. They together polled 37 per cent votes against 38.5 per cent by Congress. Akalis contested on 94 seats compared to 112 by AAP and still got 1.5 per cent higher vote share than AAP. Same is true for Congress. Both in 2007 and 2012 when it lost elections to the SAD-BJP combine, Congress posted a vote share of over 40 per cent.

It is in this context that the pre-poll scenario needs to be analysed with five-cornered contests on the anvil. The ruling Congress, which rocked its own boat by changing the chief minister just six months before the elections, is facing an internal crisis. Its unpredictable state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu continues to take pot-shots at the party’s own government and chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

In the given short time the new chief minister is coming out with a flurry of announcements which lack credibility while some of the sitting legislators are quitting the party anticipating denial of tickets. Even as the 56-member election committee supposed to send its recommendations to the party high command for final selection of candidates is yet to meet, Sidhu has been declaring candidates for some of the seats. The party is also yet to develop a strategy for the elections.

SAD, which had quit the coalition with BJP over the farm laws, has tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) whose vote share has been less than two per cent even though one third of the state’s voters belong to the Dalit Samaj. However, Akalis are by far the first movers.

Party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has been actively leading the party and besides the alliance with the BSP, has already declared candidates for the ensuing elections. It is also attempting to woo back its core constituency of rural votes by touting that it has quit the coalition and power to stand behind the farmers. The party is not facing any major hostility from farmers now and its fate would depend on how rural voters view its role in the aftermath of the farm laws which were subsequently withdrawn.

AAP, which had built up a strong cadre before the last elections, lost some ground with several leaders quitting the party and the state unit of the party remaining disoriented over the last four years. It has received a fillip after the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections but continues to remain under the direct charge of its central leaders. It’s biggest failing has been a lack of a credible chief ministerial face. With just over a month left for the elections, the party chief Arvind Kejriwal has decided to maintain silence over the issue although he has declared that the candidate would be a Sikh from Punjab. This effectively ruled himself out of the race as was being apprehended last time.

The new entrant to the political scenario, the Kisan Samaj Party, might turn out to be the X factor in the coming elections. About 22 of the farmers organisations have joined hands to form the party but at least 10 others have decided to stay away. On its own, the new party is unlikely to make a serious dent but it can change the calculations if it decides to tie up with one of the major parties. And if it happens with AAP, which has a strong presence in urban areas, it would be a strong alliance to be reckoned with.

Even as the model code of conduct is to come into force any day now and schedule is to be announced for elections next month, the political situation remains fluid with new alignments in the making and finalisation of party tickets setting the tone for the elections.

Elections And Yo-Yoing Popularity Of Modi

If you looked at a comprehensive list of festivals in India it could seem staggering. India is often known as the country of festivals. With its range of diverse cultures, languages, costumes, number of religions, number of gods or avatars of god that are worshipped, and different ethnic backgrounds that is not surprising. But there is one type of festival that is different from the others and, possibly, unique to India. These are elections.

In any other democracy, elections are only a necessity, a periodic group decision-making process through which citizens choose individuals to public office: a mere means to an end. But in India, elections, especially when they are for electing MPs or MLAs become supercharged events that can rival the most popular festivals in the country.

In roughly two months from now will begin a series of elections to state assemblies. The elections covering seven states (eight, if Jammu & Kashmir, where there is President’s Rule, also goes to the polls) will begin in February and go on till the end of 2022. And because these state assembly elections can have a bearing on what happens in the parliamentary elections in 2024, the entire political apparatus of the country will be obsessed with them.

Among the states that will hold elections are important ones. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India (pop: >204 million) where the BJP has been in power since 2017 is one. Many believe that what happens in the UP elections often determines the outcome of parliamentary elections. Gujarat, a stronghold of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state where he was chief minister for over a dozen years, is another. Then there are other small but significant elections. In Goa, where the BJP is in power, and where the contest has usually been between the BJP and the Congress, there is an aggressive new challenger–Mamata Banerjee’s All-India Trinamool Congress (AITC).

ALSO READ: Nuts & Bolts Of Mamata’s Not So Nutty Plan For Goa

What happens in Punjab would also be interesting to watch. Although the Congress is in power in the state, a few months back the state’s former chief minister and veteran Congressman Amarinder Singh resigned because of internal discord in the party. Singh has now announced the formation of his own party and that may be a force to contend with. In Punjab, it has traditionally been a two-sided battle between the Akali Dal and its alliances and the Congress and its alliances. If the former chief minister forms a new party and enters the fray, the shape of the contest could change dramatically.

In the meantime, there are mixed perceptions about the popularity of Mr. Modi and his party, which won the parliamentary elections convincingly (the National Democratic Alliance, which the BJP leads, has 334 of the 543 seats in Lok Sabha) in 2019. That clearly meant Mr Modi and his party were in top form when it came to popularity. But in August this year, when India Today magazine did its Mood of the Nation survey, polling 14,600 respondents, just 24% of them said they considered Modi best suited to be India’s Prime Minister.

Mr Modi’s plummeting popularity may have quite a bit to do with the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has hit India hard and while infections, hospitalization, and deaths have soared, it is the economic impact of the pandemic that has hit Indians hard. As many as 70% of the respondents in the poll said their incomes had fallen during the pandemic, and a third of them charged his government with inability to rein in price rises across the board–beginning with petrol and diesel prices that have soared.

How accurate are such surveys? It’s difficult to say. Because, in October, barely two months after the Mood of the Nation survey, another survey by YouGov, an international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, found that Mr Modi’s approval ratings had bounced back. Based on YouGov’s methodology, his popularity among urban Indians had increased from 53% in August to 59% in October.

Part of the problem with such surveys is their sample size of respondents. India’s population is in excess of 1.3 billion. Even if we consider the urban proportion of that, it is more than 480 million people. The Mood of the Nation survey had 14,600 respondents. And, YouGov’s survey had 5,095. These are very small sample numbers relative to the universe that they try to find a proxy for and the accuracy of opinion polls based on such samples in a very diverse country can be questioned. For the record, the YouGov survey found that there was a North-South divide in Mr Modi’s approval ratings: he enjoyed a 63% approval rating among residents of Northern India, but 36% of those residing in Southern India disapproved of him.

There are, however, some fun facts in other survey-based research that YouGov has done. In YouGov America’s survey of The Most Popular Foreign Politicians, carried out among US citizens in the third quarter of 2021, Mr Modi ranks at No. 13, just below Russia’s Vladimir Putin (No. 12) and just above Mexico’s former president, Enrique Pena Nieto. And just in case, you are wondering who was on top on that list, here it is: at No.1 it was Angela Merkel, the former chancellor of Germany; at second spot, it was Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; and at the third position, it was France’s president, Emmanuel Macron.

Sidhu Has Harmed His Party

‘Sidhu Has Harmed His Party, He Is A Bad Team Leader’

Dr Bhojdev Brar (22) from Amritsar says celebrities do not always make good politicians and all the good work by Navjot Singh Sidhu was undone by his image politics

Punjab politics is going through such confusing times, I wonder how things will shape up in the next few months when Punjab Assembly elections are held. I belong to Amritsar, the constituency of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is slowly turning out to be one of the most divisive figures of Punjab politics.

I feel he is eyeing the Chief Minister’s seat in the strategic state as in these important times (because of farmer protests). But the way he is going about it doesn’t seem very well thought out. He seems temperamental, hasty in decision making and someone who doesn’t think too well before taking a step. Soon after he resigned, another minister from the Charanpreet Singh Channi cabinet, Razia Sultana, Punjab Congress General Secretary Yoginder Dhingra and party treasurer Gulzar Inder Chahal also resigned from the party. This then becomes more about a person and less about the interests of the party.

I don’t think image politics can influence the electorate deeply if there is no weight behind their words. These celebrities or personalities cannot just bank on their image or previous charisma to get votes, they need to keep interacting with the people who voted for them and upgrade their understanding. There are so many celebrities who are good at what they do, but aren’t able to walk the long road in politics.

Metro Man, Mr E Sreedharan can be considered an example. Sidhu has walked a longer and more active road than most other celebs (17 years in active politics), but I feel he still doesn’t know the art of walking in unison with others, he still considers himself above the party.

Dr Brar with farmer leader Rakesh Tikait (left) and with Dr Swaiman Singh (extreme right in green), a New Jersey-based cardiologist who came to India to support farmers protesting agaisnt Central farm laws

And in times like these, especially in the post-Covid world, we need compassionate, considerate and calm leaders; leaders who have the capacity to listen to people’s concerns as much as they can speak. Covid has shown us how each leader is important right from the ward level to the Prime Minister level and we can’t be lax with who we choose to power.

Sidhu has done some good work in Amritsar like building road, strengthening the metro bus service, but he should also look into important matters like reducing corruption at all levels, strengthening the administrative machinery and easing governance in general so that people find it easy to approach the government on important matters.

ALSO READ: Comedy Of Errors: Capt On Congress Crisis

Moreover, I feel surprised why doesn’t he stand secure in his own identity? Why is trying to pit himself as an alternative to Captain Amarinder Singh? He should focus more on what is being and not being done in his own constituency rather than galloping off to Patiala, the constituency of Captain Singh.

If many people say that Captain Singh is growing old, then the ex-Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh led the country efficiently even at an advanced age, an Sidhu is probably showing the folly of youth. Punjab needs leaders who are cool, calm, composed and yet not afraid to take the lead, if the situation so demands.

I am keeping a keen eye on the news developments and in these times of social media boom, celebs image can fall down as quickly as they can be built. So people should be careful about each step in politics. They should aim at serving the public and not their image.

Can Amarinder Singh Save Congress?

Insinuations about the Nehru-Gandhi family’s ‘Muslim’ past, made by their cultural/political foes, are old. But for the first time, during a very toxic campaign for Delhi Assembly elections, Firoze Gandhi was called “Firoze Khan”. None from the Congress party that the family heads, objected, ostensibly out of fear that the issue would get communal hue. Congress is politically frozen. It needs a new leader.

It’s delicate. Criticizing Congress leaders/cadres for this is difficult when Nehru-bashing even by union ministers is the in-thing and when lawmakers question Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the freedom movement. But all this, besides weakening of secular ethos for which India is known, underscores the decline that the party has suffered over the recent years.

Assessing this decline is also not easy, indeed, difficult to define, when the party still has three scores of Members in Parliament (out of 800-plus) and rules, singly or jointly, in major states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

The other, more important, aspect of this political reality is declining vote share, of its leaders and activists, young and old, jumping off the ship and turning vocal critics, overnight as it were, to get accepted in their new parties. But most important, over a long period now, is the low reached in the vote-catching influence of its top leadership.

ALSO READ: Is Congress Really Rudderless?

More glaring are the inertia within and directionless approach, of losing states – Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana – despite numbers and being outsmarted by rivals. The worst is the public ridicule to which the party and its leaders are subjected to in social media-driven information explosion and a low-level public discourse.

The latest instance of all these is the Delhi polls that saw the Congress drawing a blank, yet again, cementing its vote-share loss during the parliamentary polls in 2014 and 2019. Sixty-three of its 66 candidates lost deposits, after ruling for 15 years straight in this small but politically important national capital.  

Newbie Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has almost entirely hijacked the Congress’ support base. Elsewhere, across the North – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, much of the North-East and the South – it has long ago lost out to regional parties.

Placed in similar dire stress after losing in 2004 and 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recovered. It held on to states where it wielded power with strong chief ministers and eventually, found its national leader and vote-getter in Narendra Modi. Mounting this process was its larger cultural/political family. The Congress does not have this, even as its mass base is eroding.

ALSO READ: Nation Rising Up, Opposition Holed Up

India’s oldest party is stuck with the Gandhis, who are neither able to deliver, nor able/willing to give up. A ‘temporary’ president, Sonia Gandhi, had headed it the longest, for 19 years, earlier. She is known to be ailing and keen to retire. Her reticent son Rahul, resigned after a disastrous performance last summer and asked for selecting a “non-Gandhi” to lead. But nearly five decades of the family rule has totally benumbed the party, at all levels, into not even looking for a new leader or a set of people who can provide coherent, collective leadership. For want of a better word, the party is in coma.

The Delhi debacle and prospects of Rahul returning to lead, likely next month, if only to relieve his mother, have brought the prolonged crisis to the fore. Reports indicate a silent demand, a muffled one so far, for a “non-Gandhi.”

Reports also indicate deep discord and disarray within the family. Sonia wants Rahul to return, but does not seem to trust his choice of aides and his decisions – and not without reason. The “old guard” around her clashes with the ‘new’ one close to Rahul. The difference between the two is that the ‘old’ is really old and now rootless, while the ‘new’, by and large of young techies and managers, never struck roots.

Much was made of Priyanka and her resemblance to grandma Indira Gandhi. But repeated electoral outcomes show that the present-day voter’s memory is too short for that. If Priyanka is the alternative to Rahul, she is also the sitting duck for a government that is vigorously pursuing cases against husband Robert Wadra.

Rahul tried, with limited success last year, to by-pass his 24X7 ridicule. His ill-advised choice of campaign issues and gaffe-prone performance went against him and the party.  

To be fair, the Gandhis are a decent lot. Rajiv, the last Gandhi to rule was extremely decent, too. But that is not enough in politics. They are expected to deliver each time, often as the lone rangers. Absence or internal elections leaves them with leaders, but no workers.

The Congress’ shrinking cadres need leader(s) who actually perform full-time and not during the elections; who can rub shoulders, literally, with the crowds. Past sacrifices, charisma and token reach-outs with photo-ops, without support on the ground have not worked, and will not in future.

This is not the Congress of the Mahatma and Nehru who were relatively tolerant of dissent. Indira ended it, appointing leaders from the top and turning the party into a family estate. Although the Gandhi family was not active from 1991 to 1998, Narasimha Rao could not be without its overcast shadows. Ditto Manmohan Singh who had no base, no say in the party.  She lacks understanding of Indian social and psychological traditions. She must be credited, though, for forging alliances that earned the Congress power in 2004.

When Sonia entered politics in 1998, some left, dubbing her a ‘foreigner’. Today, some Congressmen clamour for the return of one: Sharad Pawar. Conventional wisdom still places Congress as the Opposition’s rallying point – only if it strives to organize and act.

The party is unsure of its ideological direction. Adopting “Soft Hindutva” has failed. The task of countering the BJP’s majoritarian agenda is extremely daunting when secularism means being pro-Muslim and thus, “anti-national.”        

The Gandhi-centric working has marginalized strong and credible Congress chief ministers Amarinder Singh (Punjab), Kamal Nath (Madhya Pradesh), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan) and Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh). Decision-making by a weak leadership and anxiety to hold everyone together have left these older satraps fighting with younger rivals.

Generational changes have been most painful in Congress whose Treasurer is 92. None retires in India, anyway, irrespective of age and health.

The Gandhis need to take political sabbatical, completely, if not quit. Let Amarinder Singh head the organization, with young, strong support from the likes of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Lok Sabha needs an articulate Shashi Tharoor.

But naming names is futile till the party that is wedded to only one name acts. There is still time, last chance, perhaps, to stem the rot.

The writer can be reached at