Fragmented, fractured opposition makes Congress confident in Punjab

Source: India Abroad News Service

By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, March 12 (IANS) At the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) often points out that all the opposition parties, including the Congress, are targetting it politically. In Punjab, it is the reverse.

The ruling Congress in Punjab is being targetted by the main opposition parties – the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and smaller political groups that have come into existence in the last few months.

The Congress government in Punjab, led by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, has been in power since May 2017. The party won thew February 2017 assembly elections with a thumping majority – winning 77 seats in the 117-member assembly. (The Congress tally is now 78 seats after it later won a by-election.)

In the 2014 general elections, Punjab virtually voted against the national pro-BJP voting trend on two counts.

Firstly, the SAD-BJP alliance could manage only six out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats (SAD got 4 and BJP got 2).

Secondly, the AAP, which was routed in all other states, managed to win four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab and get it first representatives in the Lok Sabha. It is another matter that two AAP MPs – Dharam Vira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa – have been under suspension from the AAP since May 2015.

The Congress won three seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Its tally is now four after it won the Gurdaspur seat in a by-election in 2017. The bypoll was necessitatedAby the death of four-time BJP MP from the seat, actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna.

As all parties prepare to vote on May 19 for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress clearly believes that it has an upper hand because the opposition is a fractured and fragmented unit.

The SAD saw a few senior leaders being expelled or leaving it in November last year and floating a new outfit – the SAD (Taksali). Whatever SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal may claim about the new outfit as being of no consequence, the Taksali old guard will cause some dent into the votes of the SAD – the second oldest party (established in 1920) in the country after the Congress.

The BJP is resigned to the fact, and position, of playing second fiddle to the SAD in Punjab’s political affairs.

The SAD, which has been cornered by the Congress on the sensitive issue of sacrilege of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, has its back to the wall.

The AAP, which is the main opposition in the Punjab assembly, has seen a number of senior leaders either being suspended or leaving the party in the past 3-4 years. The party cadre is in disarray at the ground level.

Repeating its 2014 performance would be an uphill task for the AAP which is fast losing its support base. The AAP is trying hard for an alliance with the SAD (Taksali).

Breakaway leaders from six smaller parties parties have recently floated the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA).

Amidst all this, the Congress continues to sit pretty – watching the opposition in a virtual self-destruct mode.

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