BJP warming up to Amarinder Singh

Express News Service

CHANDIGARH:  A day after former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh chided the Gandhi siblings, Rahul and Priyanaka, for unseating him, the BJP seemed to be cosying up to the veteran Congress leader.

With the political pot in poll-bound Punjab already boiling following his high-pitched spat with state Congress unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu, the BJP’s overture has added a new dimension to it. They have not only gone soft on him but are spinning him as a nationalist icon. Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij on Thursday sought to slam Sidhu, saying Amarinder was axed as he was a hurdle in installing pro-Pakistan forces in power in Punjab. 

The BJP, which had gone on the backfoot in the state after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) broke its two-decade old alliance with it last year citing the controversial farm sector reform laws, is now tempting Amarinder to jump ship so that the saffron party become a significant player in the state polls. As for Amarinder, he is keeping his options open. 

The BJP wants to fight on all 117 seats in the state this time around. At present, it has only two MLAs in the Assembly. In the last Assembly elections, the BJP contested only 23 seats, as it was in alliance with SAD.

Political analyst Prof Ashutosh of Panjab University said, “Amarinder has two options. Either he floats his own regional party like others did or join the BJP. The kind of political language he is speaking and idioms he is using of late are in consonance with the BJP line on national security and Pakistan bashing.’’

Amarinder, even after demitting office, is clearly no pushover. With him holding his cards close to the chest, nothing can be definitively said as yet. To draw him, the BJP has to find a workaround for the three farm laws and also introduce a law guaranteeing minimum support prices for crops. The other option for Amarinder is to launch his own regional party with the tacit support of the BJP. 

Farm package needed to draw Capt

“It will be difficult for Amarinder to join the BJP until and unless it doles out some concessions to the agitating farmers, which are acceptable to them. Otherwise, he will form a regional outfit with disgruntled Congressmen,” said Ashutosh.

With the political situation at present not so conducive for the BJP and the SAD and no other political party, including the Congress and AAP having a clear upper hand, a leader like Amarinder could play the role of kingmaker.

“It is too early to predict if there will be a consolidation of SC votes cutting across religious and caste lines in the polls. There is also a distinct possibility of counter-mobilisation of the dominant Jat Sikh community. In case there is a hung Assembly, it is possible that the SAD and the BJP revive their old alliance to form the government if they have the numbers,” said Ashutosh.

Meanwhile, in public rebuff to Amarinder, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said he should reconsider his remarks saying the Congress made him the CM for nine-and-a-half years. “Hatred, jealousy, and vendetta have no place in politics. If he wants to leave the party, then I have nothing to say on this,” she added.

Soon after, Amarinder shot back: “Yes, there’s no space for anger in politics. But is there space for humiliation & insult in a grand old party like @INCIndia? If a senior party leader like me can be treated like this, I wonder what the workers must go through!”