OPINION

Monthly Archives: JULY 2018


Refugee se refugee mile, kar kar chotte haath
Punjab is Silent as India Wakes Up to Talk of Refugees, Migration, Issues of Citizenship
30.07.18 - S PAL
Punjab is Silent as India Wakes Up to Talk of Refugees, Migration, Issues of Citizenship



 Indian national media’s top story finds no mention in Punjab newspapers, TV
 
PUNJAB IS A land of the refugees. Certainly, a large number of refugees. Partition meant that millions were displaced, and forced to trudge their way into the Indian Punjab, Delhi, Jammu, parts of Rajasthan and elsewhere. Often they landed wherever they thought their relatives would help them, or wherever trains took them, or army trucks dumped them.

On the morning of Monday, July 30th, millions of people in India found themselves in a similar situation. Fear and the spectre of doom loomed over the lives of lakhs of people who have only known India as their home, and as the clock ticked and the Registrar General of India announced that names of around 40 lakh people were not in final draft of the dreaded National Register of Citizens, Punjabis were perhaps the only people in India who should have been empathising the most.

Instead, a deafening silence marks Punjab. Not a single Punjabi newspaper thought it fit to find some space on the front page for the explosive development. Punjabi Tribune and Ajit did not spare a single square inch for it. A number of seminars and goshthis in Punjab in the 24 hours preceding the development did not even allude to the fate of these potential refugees even as lakhs feared that they will be rendered stateless.
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As Punjabis learnt to their great dismay in 1947, factors such as the dance of history and geography can trigger sensitivities and dumb logic when a populace is fed on a concoction of mob-approved ideas of citizenship, identity, and immigration.
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In comparison, most national news television channels carried the news with great prominence. Almost all channels had major debates on the issue on Sunday evening. It was the leading front page story in almost all national newspapers on Monday morning or found a lot of coverage on the inside pages. By noon, Indian Parliament had exploded with it. Mamta Bannerjee was in a rage.

While we should talk about this peculiar approach of the media in Punjab, as also about the concerns of the aware sections of the Punjabi community, but right now, we need to pay attention to what's happening in distant Assam.
 
Citizenship in any times is a complicated idea, and it mainly predicates on who must be excluded. Talk of Assam being taken over by illegal Bangladeshi migrants has been rife in the northeast for a long time and the narrative is especially being propelled by the ruling BJP.

As Punjabis learnt to their great dismay in 1947, factors such as the dance of history and geography can trigger sensitivities and dumb logic when a populace is fed on a concoction of mob-approved ideas of citizenship, identity, and immigration.

Punjab went through it, Assam is going through it – albeit many realities are different. India is updating its six-and-a-half-decade-old National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Citizenship Act, 1955, is being amended to selectively regularise some categories of illegal migration.

We are now citizens of a country which is actively looking for aliens from among people living here for decades, many of them born here. 

Punjabis who came from Pakistan must know that they are Indian citizens only on the force of Article 11 of the Constitution that empowered Parliament to regulate citizenship by law, and as a result of which the Citizenship Act was passed in 1955. 

Under Article 6, anyone who migrated to India before July 19, 1948, from territory that had become part Pakistan, automatically became a citizen if either of their parents or grandparents was born in India. Those who entered India after this date needed to register themselves. 

In 2004, Parliament was told that there were 1.2 crore illegal immigrants in India, of whom 50 lakh were in Assam. Then came talk of "international Islamic fundamentalism” (Sarbananda Sonowal vs Union Of India & Anr, July 12, 2005). The first draft was published on December 31, 2017, and the names of 1.9 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated.

A new law and changes to the 1955 Act sought to permit members of six communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship if they had entered the country before December 14, 2014. 

Many in Assam fear that "illegal Bangladeshi Hindu migrants" will bring about a demographic change. India is now openly discriminating against Muslims only on the grounds of religion, which is prohibited by Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

The country's top media is agog with news coverage. National television is focussing on it in a major way, but in Punjab, no one is squeaking. A senior journalist who interviewed veteran Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal 24 hours before Assam woke up to the fateful July 30 morning, did not even refer to the issue. 

 

Prateek Hajela, NRC state coordinator; Sailesh, RGI and Satyendra Garg, joint secretary (NE) of the Ministry of Home Affairs while releasing the final NRC draft on July 30, 2018

 
Meanwhile, journalists in Delhi and in Guwahati remained focussed on July 30 morning as the second and final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens was finally released by the Registrar General of India at the NRC office in Guwahati. 

New Delhi despatched 220 companies of Central Armed Police Forces. Police were on alert to mitigate any untoward incident. Television cameras remained pitched in front of the homes of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. 
 
Most television channels in India had live coverage of the release of the final draft. Not a single Punjabi news channel even mentioned the development even as Registrar General Sailesh said, "The process has been completely transparent, fair, objective and meticulously carried out. Around 40 lakh people do not find a mention in final draft of NRC. 2,89,83,677 out of 3.29 crore applicants are eligible."
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Punjabis have seen the political maturity of people when they are rendered non-citizens. That kind of maturity led to the largest massacre of people anywhere on the planet as a result of partition of land.
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Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal has said he will free the state of illegal immigrants. 

"We believe that updating the NRC is an important tool to identify illegal migrants. We also believe that a flawless NRC will be the primary security shield for people living in the Barak-Brahmaputra Valleys, the hills and plains of Assam," he was quoted as saying in an interview to a leading national newspaper.

Sonowal said 50,000 officers and other state government staff were deployed for this draft. The hurry is comparable to the way Radcliffe was asked to work out the Partition of Punjab with outdated maps and little clarity. 

Already, top Indian government officials are saying people need not fear as they will not be put in detention camps. You can well imagine how much fear will be there among the population when talk of detention camps is in the air. 

When Liz Mathew of the Indian Express asked Sonowal about what he was doing to deal with the insecurity and fear among people, he said, "I have confidence in the political maturity of the people of Assam."

Punjabis have seen the political maturity of people when they are rendered non-citizens. That kind of maturity led to the largest massacre of people anywhere on the planet as a result of partition of land.

Sonowal is claiming that law and order situation will be controlled and he has reviewed it well. "The Centre has provided all possible assistance to the state. Meanwhile, social media cells are actively working to stop the circulation of rumours and fake news."
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We made a lot of noise when they sought to evict some Sikhs from Shillong. We are absolutely silent when they are about to evict millions from India. What defines us, pray?
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One is reminded of Lord Mountbatten's assurances that aircraft will be in the air and tanks will be out in the streets if rioting started as a result of Partition. Mountbatten repeated those assurances time and again to people of the stature of Nehru and Patel.

Eventually, not a single aircraft took off, not a single tank rolled into the streets. We all know of families that were rendered incomplete because a member was killed in the riots. We all know of many refugee families that took decades before they could start living with dignity.

Some of those wounds still hurt. Some of the colonies still carry that name. In Delhi, when I lived for sometime in Lajpat Nagar, I was told it is a refugee colony. In Ludhiana, people still refer to the area diagonally opposite to the bus stand as Jawahar Nagar Refugee Camp.

Today, India is proactively hunting its own people to identify the "foreigners." The Akali Dal is an alliance partner of the BJP. Top journalists do not even ask questions to an Akali supremo about what is happening in Assam, and how do they view their alliance with BJP in the context of lynchings? 

The Indian Express' headline of July 30: ‘Will they deport us? Was born here, don’t know anywhere else’ stabs any Punjabi in the heart, reminding one of what we did to each other in 1947, depending upon what our God was called.

Now, NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela has stressed that that those who do not find their names in the NRC draft "will not be sent to detention camps.”

Thank you so much. Even if you had directly ordered them to be lined up and shot, a single bullet to the head, I am not sure if newspapers in Punjab had found any space for it on their front pages, or if editors had asked senior politicians a single question about it.

We made a lot of noise when they sought to evict some Sikhs from Shillong. We are absolutely silent when they are about to evict millions from India. What defines us, pray?

The silence of the graveyard marks the thought processes now as you walk through Punjab's streets, lined with signboards announcing numbers of IELTS-graduating kids they sent to Canada. The newly-minted refugees in Assam should have no hope from those who have left the old refugee tag far behind. They are busy becoming refugees in another land, via IELTS.

You have a choice. Just as any news bulletin anchor says after any significant story, "let’s move on.” You can move on to the shenanigans of a Kejriwal or a Sukhpal Khaira, or whether Sikh women riding two-wheelers should be wearing a helmet or even a debate about whether a girl named Kirenjit by her mom should suffix Kaur. These are exciting debates. Or you can move on to a little sobering debate about the silence of the refugees of the not so recent past.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 




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Democracy: From Jantar Mantar to Matka Chowk, march with the help of Supreme Court
26.07.18 - S Pal
Democracy: From Jantar Mantar to Matka Chowk, march with the help of Supreme Court



Editors may not come to the chowk, but sons and daughters of Mother India must
 
IS DEMOCRACY BACK at the chowk? Sample this: It took a strong people's movement extending over years, massive public opinion mobilisation, the legacy of Chipko agitation and tireless efforts of civil society to push the Indian government to move on the environmental front.

As a result, India set up the National Green Tribunal. One of the first moves of this NGT was, guess what, not to stop the government from committing wholesale rape of the environment, not a stoppage to its anti-poor mining policies, not a roadblock in the way of decimation of the forest cover in the name of development.

Instead, the first thing the NGT did was to save the manicured lawns of the Jantar Mantar from the crowds of the unwashed, aggrieved, voiceless, marginalised sons and daughters of Mother India who would often come crying and converge at the Jantar Mantar so that someone listens to their fervent pleas.
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How democratic a regime is can be easily measured by how it engages with the people who gather at the chowk, shouting slogans, challenging power, speaking truth to those in the seat of the government.

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In any country, the state of the democracy is best measured by taking the temperature of democracy at the chowk. How democratic a regime is can be easily measured by how it engages with the people who gather at the chowk, shouting slogans, challenging power, speaking truth to those in the seat of the government.

If lathi-charges and water cannons are the norm, then democracy can only be described as fractured. If Section 144 is in place for years, and there is ban on people grouping together to demand justice for any perceived wrong, then consider democracy dead and buried for all practical purposes.

Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, made sure years ago that its Matka Chowk stays beautified and always presents a picture-perfect postcard look. So it banished the protesting farmers forever.

Even Chandigarh's famed Sector 17 plaza is invariably under Section 144 and a police chowki is bang in the middle to ensure that any motley group of protestors remains confined to a small corner. Intimidating cops note down the names and phone numbers of any protestors, reason enough for many mothers to tell their children not to venture anywhere near a group that might be demanding action in a rape or murder case or kidnapping case.

The state of the democracy in the chowk in India is pathetic, but the recent judgment of the Supreme Court has ushered in a ray of hope. Significantly, it has also provided a moment to ponder the state of affairs in Punjab, and given its trade unionists, farmer leaders and civil society some food for thought.

The Supreme Court has said Jantar Mantar cannot be barred to all protestors forever, and has even opened up the iconic Boat Club for protests. It has asked the Centre to come up with parameters and guidelines to grant permission for such protests. 
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Why did the National Green Tribunal find the protestors too noisy? Because For repressive regimes, the silence of the wronged is golden.

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A bench of Justice A K Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan has reiterated that "the right to protest is ... a fundamental right under the Constitution... and is crucial in a democracy which rests on participation of an informed citizenry in governance.”

The SC was pronouncing its judgment on a petition by NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan challenging the "repeated imposition” of Section 144 CrPC to curb protests in central Delhi. 

But let us return to the ban imposed by the NGT. Why did the National Green Tribunal find the protestors too noisy? A quarter century earlier, the ruling sultans of Delhi had found that the Boat Club was being ruined by farmers swarming the capital, seeking proper remuneration for their produce. 

In Chandigarh, the protesters were told to take their protests from Matka Chowk to Sector 25 near the cremation grounds where only the dead could hear their cries.

The fact is that the powers that be are finding it increasingly intolerable to listen to the cries of people raising their voice. For them, the sundry groups of people with a grouse in make-shift tents or on a durrie signify actual danger.

Those who demand justice are the biggest threat to regimes all through history.

Not even the most repressive regimes in the Arab world, where they think little before mowing down protesters, had ever thought of accusing protesters of noise pollution. Not even at the height of Tiananmen Square protests did Beijing claim that the decibel level was too high.

For repressive regimes, the silence of the wronged is golden. For any Deputy Commissioner or Home Secretary in Chandigarh, even the idea of an Occupy Wall Street style movement could lead to a severe bout of diarrhoea.

It's a pity the writ of the NGT does not run to the World Social Forum venues which regularly see some of the most democratic and noisy protests in the world.

The recent decision of the SC should jolt the activists in Punjab who had meekly gulped the sarkari farmaan of keeping Matka Chowk free of any protests.

Just a few years ago, Punjab was agog with talk of torture in the police thanas. Well, that still happens, and everyone and his uncle knows that. 
 
Now that the state has developed a new democratically-sanctioned model of torture in the public square -- beating up nurses, anganwadi workers, farmers, angry people protesting against the death of anyone in police custody, relatives demanding inquiry into killing of a kidnapped child -- it has also ensured that the aggrieved hordes do not come marching into the town. 

So you cannot protest at the Matka Chowk, just a few hundred yards from the seat of power, the Punjab Assembly. Regimes of various hues in Punjab have been constantly shrinking and eliminating democratic spaces where people can raise their voice. Law comes handy as a convenient tool, and Section 144 is beloved of all Deputy Commissioners.

Matka Chowk was made a no-go zone for protesters by the Chandigarh Administration by using the law, fair and square. That the democratic voices were stifled in the process was a minor aspect that neither the shrieking anchors cared about, nor did Chandigarh's elite media. Editors, too, like their City Beautiful to be calm, free of noise pollution. So they did not squirm when Chandigarh's elite told the farmers, the protesting wage-demanding teachers, job-searching youth to shift to a site next to the cremation grounds.

It is a site completely removed from the daily life of the city, away from the eyes of the people. It is easier for farmers to gather there, raise slogans, and then disperse, without anyone noticing them. Unless the dead are listening. 

What does it take an editor to understand that the very purpose of protests is to pressurise the government through public exposure, not convince the dead? Apathy.
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Those who demand justice are the biggest threat to regimes all through history.

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The point of any public protest is always to inform the people about how a government has wronged its own citizens. Chandigarh's leading media houses sided with the powers that be. 

"They ran amok, now they’re back,” said a newspaper in a screaming headline to warn people of what it claimed were marauding hordes of farmers. Editors in glass houses can easily miss the connection between a five star hotel that came up near the Matka Chowk and the administration's actions of debarring the milling crowds of rather shabbily dressed farmers who could be seen from its windows.

Silence, as we all know, is the most insidious way of extending support. The fact is that those tasked with seeking an answer on behalf of the nation preferred to either stay silent, or be part of the apparatus that killed the democracy in the chowk.

Punjab’s then ruling Congress party, as well as the opposition Akali Dal refused to be sucked into any debate when the Chandigarh Administration slapped a blanket ban on anyone from Punjab coming to Chandigarh to protest against the government. 

Not one of their leaders went and sat at the Matka Chowk, or the Jantar Mantar when the Punjab Assembly passed a blanket law -- "The Punjab (Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property) Act -- the likes of which could only have been possible in North Korea or pre-reforms China, prohibiting any protest, agitation, dharna on any issue in the state without permission from the government. 
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Editors, too, like their City Beautiful to be calm, free of noise pollution. So they did not squirm when Chandigarh's elite told the protesters to shift to a site next to the cremation grounds.

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Punjabis must guard against attempts to snatch away democratic spaces that allow breathing room for ideas. The voice of the dissenter is not meant for the dead at a cremation site. 

When a state suppresses the cry for justice on account of charges of noise pollution, it joins the ranks of the conscience-dead. It votes for the calm of the graveyard silence.

Now that the Supreme Court has moved to open up the Boat Club and Jantar Mantar, it is time for the farmer leaders, the trade unionists, the teachers' unions, the nurses unions', the Anganwadi workers, the civil society leaders to make sure that they reclaim their democratic spaces.

The health of the democracy is measured at the chowk. It is time we stand as sons and daughters of a democratic country and swarm the chowk to mark our presence. The Supreme Court judgement should be an inspiration to those fighting for the poor, the marginalised, the farmers, the dalits, the minorities.

When the health of a democracy is at peril, the believers in democracy should check it out in the chowk. Matka Chowk is as good as any other place. So is Jantar Mantar. So is Ram Lila Maidan. So is the Boat Club.

This is the time to speak up, to be at the chowk, to be at the Matka Chowk. When will we see you there? 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

AAP-CONG ALLIANCE: ARREY BHAI, YEH KYA LIKH DALA?

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON? 

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

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HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

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NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

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JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

J&K – RAM MADHAV LEAVES SPACE FOR MEHBOOBA’S POLITICS

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OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

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PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

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PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 





[home] [1] 2  [next]1-5 of 6


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comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

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STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON?
Amarinder first to talk about AAP-Congress alliance, but what could it mean?
23.07.18 - S Pal*
Amarinder first to talk about AAP-Congress alliance, but what could it mean?



MAKING THE MOST definitive statement till date about his party's stance towards the Aam Aadmi Party, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has made it clear that the Congress is open to a pre-poll alliance with the AAP.

"Building alliances is the prerogative of the central party leadership, not ours," Captain Amarinder Singh has said, making it clear that he and the state unit of Congress will do exactly what the high command tells them to.

The BJP and the Akali Dal in Punjab are likely to go hammer and tongs after the Congress and Amarinder Singh now as they will claim that the AAP was always a B team of the Congress, a consistent tune that the Badals kept up during the last Assembly election campaign.

The AAP is also likely to suffer a great deal of reputational damage since its only claim to legitimacy was remaining equidistant from both, the SAD-BJP and the Congress.
------------
The AAP is also likely to suffer a great deal of reputational damage since its only claim to legitimacy was remaining equidistant from both, the SAD-BJP and the Congress.
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Much of the AAP attack in the past few months has been on Captain Amarinder Singh for his defence of Rana Gurjit Singh, the failure to control drugs menace and the attempts to hastily wind up court cases and investigations into Ludhiana City Centre scam and other murky deals.

"How will we now go to the people and tell them that we were so wrong and that it is so important to defeat the BJP and Narendra Modi that we have decided to have a tie up with those we called corrupt?" lamented a senior MLA of the AAP in a free-wheeling chat with Punjab Today.

"Bechara Sukhpal Singh Khaira na ghar da rahega, na ghaat da. He left the Congress, calls Amarinder Singh and Rana Gurjit corrupt at every turn of the phrase, and will now have to work with them? How can anyone strike three 360 degree somersaults in politics in such a short duration," he said.

A Delhi-based retired senior bureaucrat, who worked closely with the AAP and was instrumental in hammering out strategy during the Delhi elections, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi only needs to hear a whiff about any impending pact between the AAP and the Congress and he will go to town across India talking about it.

The 67-3 defeat in Delhi rankles Modi till date, the retired babu said, "and he will not let go of an opportunity to encash the potential publicity such a pact allows."
------------
Even if AAP has not come up to the people's expectations and the performance of its 20 MLAs has been far from sterling, voters in Punjab do look forward to both: a strong, acceptable leader, and hope of a clean politics.
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In Punjab, many Congressmen see this as an admission of the inherent weakness of the party in Punjab. 

"AAP in Punjab is no more the kind of force it was in early 2017. It has been riven by intra-party rivalry; it has lost its teflon sheen; many of its leaders have been jumping ship and the party lacks groundwork and a proper machinery. With the popular wave having ebbed, there's not a single AAP MLA who is sure of retaining his ticket or seat. The crowd and the vote share that it has garnered is likely to return to the Congress on its own, without any pre-poll alliance," said a senior journalist who flirted with the AAP at one stage and was a sort of advisor for a brief period.

A Congress minister said political analysts must understand the need of the central leadership of the party to have such a pact. "The fact is that Rahul Gandhi needs a larger number of MPs, a higher vote share, a perception that all and sundry are ready to align and work with him. An AAP-Congress tie up has immense potential for creating such a perception," he said.

Asked if Amarinder Singh will not resist such a tie up if he felt that it may not be in the interest of Punjab Congress, the minister said that Amarinder Singh, in fact, may welcome it.

"As things stand, Amarinder Singh is not the top billing candidate in the Congress for another go at the top job. Rahul Gandhi is much more inclined towards Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manpreet Singh Badal. But if Amarinder Singh goes out on a limb and sells the AAP-Congress pact as a major move to clean up politics in Punjab, he may be the man to lead the Congress' campaign once again," the minister said.

Many of the journalists that Punjab Today spoke to said Amarinder Singh enjoyed a degree of personal acceptance among Punjab electorate that goes beyond the Congress party. Similarly, the idea of AAP continues to have a significant following, as against the AAP itself.

So, even if AAP has not come up to the people's expectations and the performance of its 20 MLAs has been far from sterling, voters in Punjab do look forward to both: a strong, acceptable leader, and hope of a clean politics.
------------
The BJP and the Akali Dal are likely to go hammer and tongs after the Congress, claiming that the AAP was always a B team of the Congress.
------------
"Amarinder plus the idea of a corrective third force can be a tempting electoral combination. The central Congress leadership is well aware that despite the lacklustre performance of the Amarinder Singh government, the prime target of hatred in Punjab continues to be the Akali Dal and the Badals. In 2017, the voters were split between seeing a strong CM and backing a movement for clean politics. A combo may give the Congress an impetus for 2022, not just for 2019," argued a former AAP leader who unsuccessfully contested on AAP ticket but is now far removed from electoral politics.

A mid-level Congress leader in Delhi told Punjab Today that the party was still to seek feedback from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and a few other pockets, including Goa about how the idea might be received. 

But more than that, Rahul Gandhi should be worried about the potential the idea has for a Narendra Modi-Amit Shah machine which can work overtime and project the Congress president as someone who works with anarchists and the dharna-pardarshan bunch. 

As for now, Amarinder Singh has given enough handle to the Akali Dal and the BJP to claim that AAP and Congress have a strategy to either play a friendly game or fix the match beforehand. In all of this, a man called Sukhpal Singh Khaira may find himself homeless. The politics of cleanliness can have the most intended victims, as well as unintended scenarios.

Perhaps a Rana Gurjit sitting next to an Arvind Kejriwal. Who knows? "It's for the high command to decide," an Amarinder Singh would say.

*(With inputs from Nischay Pal in Amritsar and Kamjaat Singh in Delhi.)
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT 





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THE RAM MADHAV LESSON IN POLITICS
CHIDAMBARAM IS WRONG – The cry of Sushma Swaraj and the silence of Rajnath Singh
08.07.18 - S Pal
CHIDAMBARAM IS WRONG – The cry of Sushma Swaraj and the silence of Rajnath Singh



"Not one fellow minister or (BJP) party functionary" condemned the trolls hounding Union Minister Sushma Swaraj, claimed former Union Finance Minister and one of the sharpest critics of the Modi government, P Chidambaram of the Congress.

He is wrong. 

BJP's Ram Madhav, a man with a direct line to Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, condemned the trolls and even wrote an article in the same newspaper in which Chidambaram is a Sunday columnist.

The problem, in fact, is far more serious than what Sushma Swaraj's new found friends in different parties have pointed out. 

Not only did no union minister speak up for Sushma Swaraj, not only did Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain silent at the plight of a woman minister literally begging for support in the cybertown square as an army largely composed of men jeered her and humiliated her, not only did Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tell her to ignore the trolls instead of taking action against them, not only did even the ignored veterans keep their counsel, but Ram Madhav actually insulted her in black and white, in a leading English language daily, in an edit page lead article.
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Ram Madhav launched one of the most vicious attacks on Sushma Swaraj in the garb of defending her.
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After uttering one of the world's oldest homilies for the trolls that could only have come from his innate maternal instincts — "Don’t do unto others that you don’t want done to you” — Ram Madhav launched one of the most vicious attacks on Sushma Swaraj in the garb of defending her.

While condemning the trolls who asked her husband to beat her up, referred to her kidney problem, and generally questioned her patriotism, Ram Madhav gave the troll army the one justification that they were looking for to seem credible.

"Whether External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was responsible for the transfer of a junior-level officer in the passport office at Lucknow, whether she did so out of a sense of pseudo-secular enthusiasm or whether the officer in question had become a victim of a secular clique — these are important questions, but they are of secondary importance," Madhav wrote.

So the questions raised by the trolls about his own party's senior Union minister are all very valid. It is just that the trolls used very bad language. Madhav basically said it was alright to question Sushma Swaraj's patriotism — just use parliamentary language.

Was Sushma Swaraj indulging in "pseudo-secular enthusiasm"? Ram Madhav says the issue can be discussed, and there could be two or more different views on it but no one should indulge in trolling.

Conclusion: People were most welcome to discuss if Sushma Swaraj is an anti-national. Just avoid bad language.

"This is not because they are not serious questions, but because they need proper scrutiny before we arrive at a conclusion," says Ram Madhav.
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Conclusion: People were most welcome to discuss if Sushma Swaraj is an anti-national. Just avoid bad language.
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This was a man close to Modi and Shah and whose word counts as the party line whether it comes to Kashmir or any other issue, and he was telling the trolls: you raised very serious issue, but can we please keep the language nice?

Ram Madhav, at one place in the article, calls the questions raised by the troll army about the transfer of a passport officer, as "genuine questions raised by some social media."

If Rajnath Singh's advice to Sushma Swaraj was to ignore the trolls, Ram Madhav undercut his Union Home Minister also by terming the trolls' concern as "genuine issues."

He then used the occasion for some Muslim bashing, a favourite pastime of top BJP honchos, and the trolls. See how the twains meet: "The case pertaining to Tanvi Seth, the woman in question in the passport row, should actually have been used against the regressive clerics who insist upon changing the name of a Hindu woman to that of a Muslim in the nikahnama."

Wow! The trolls had missed this point. Ram Madhav is reminding them. Or is he chiding them for missing a cheap shot? Of course, woebegone Ram Madhav were he to point out why women change their names post-marriage in the wider Hindu society! Or suffix their husband's surname to their name, very often dropping their own surname. Who talks such stuff? Yes, Nivedita Menon. And she is an anti-national, as everyone who has ever worn a saffron bandana knows.

Ram Madhav, of course, might never have been invited by anyone to a social occasion, or he would have noticed the ubiquitous "Mrs and Mr Sharma/Verma/Bhatia/Malhotra" scrawled on the card pasted to the Gopal Sweet Shop box.

The only other reason could be that Ram Madhav is being selectively blind, and is telling the BJP's who's who to remain blind to the travails of Sushma Swaraj. Blind, and deaf and mute.
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The trolls had missed this point. Ram Madhav is reminding them. Or is he chiding them for missing a cheap shot?
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This is an orchestrated move, and Sushma Swaraj is not the only target. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is also on notice. 

Mark Rajnath Singh's utter insignificance when it came to Amit Shah's move of pulling the plug from underneath the Mehbooba Mufti government. In that case, Ram Madhav, who was the architect of the ill-advised BJP-PDP coalition and the hatchet man for the demolition job, did not even make a pretence about Rajnath Singh being in the loop.

All this even when Rajnath Singh was the one who was to study the report of the governor of Jammu and Kashmir and was to recommend Governor's rule in the trouble-torn state.

The irrelevance of Rajnath Singh is on display in the country's capital these days. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party government won its day in the Supreme Court, but the Centre was hardly in a hurry to hand over the keys. So a 2015 notification of the Union Home Ministry came in handy.

Mounted on the shoulders of Rajnath Singh is a gun targeted at Kejriwal, but the irony is that Rajnath Singh has not given any indication that his is a willing shoulder.

He has not even issued a statement on the subject. Who wants to hand over an issue to the troll army, many of its members followed by ministers in the Modi government? 

Kejriwal himself is giving some face-saving to Rajnath Singh by saying the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) might be "confused” about the Supreme Court verdict. Poor Rajnath Singh is not saying that he is very clear about it.

Kejriwal is telling the MHA to go to the court. The Centre wants Kejriwal to go back to the court and get an explicit order that the services were under the control of the CM and also to get the MHA's notification quashed.

The MHA is silent. It was silent on Kashmir. It is silent on L-G. It has been silent on the issue of lynchings. Its man at the top has even asked Sushma Swaraj to be silent about trolls.

Rajnath Singh's advice to Sushma Swaraj about ignoring trolls is actually his problem. He is worried that not just the PM but the PMO ignores him. 
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The irrelevance of Rajnath Singh is on display in the country's capital these days.
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He is worried about opening his mouth lest he finds out that instead of the trolls breathing down his neck, they may also ignore him. That will put the stamp on his irrelevance.

But in Delhi's power circles, people know the ground realities. Arvind Kejriwal said the ministry of home affairs has directed that services power will be with the L-G. He has not said that the stand has been taken by the Home Minister. The ministry speaks. The minister does not.

When a minister speaks up, as Sushma Swaraj did, he or she may find the reality even more scary. Either no one comes to your support, or they come to justify the trolls.

"It is improper to blame the Union minister for that decision (about transferring the passport officer)," Ram Madhav wrote. "Improper?" Is that the word Ram Madhav finally settled for after considering the entire range of diction at his command?

You troll one of the most powerful people in this country, the one who represents India in its dealings with the most powerful prime ministers, presidents, heads of governments and states, dictators, owners of nuclear bombs and submarines and hoarders of illegal, illegitimate arsenals, and you get away even after publicly telling her husband to pull her away and beat her up, and the harshest criticism that a kind pracharak of the RSS, top functionary of the BJP and confidante of the Prime Minister and ruling party's supremo could muster was to term their heinous doings "improper?"

Dear Sushma Swaraj, you who wanted ten heads of Pakistani soldiers for each one India loses, you who spared no poisonous words against your opponents, you who even threatened to shave your head lest a democratic electoral verdict is respected, you who did all one must in order to further the cause of the party, you who did not decide to tweet when lynch mobs were out on the street looking for what people stored in their refrigerators, you failed one test when you raised your voice for Tanvi Seth.

Rajnath Singh is still to make that mistake.

Do not do anything improper, and you will survive. Even an LK Advani has learnt that. Nothing happened to him and he happily sits to the left of the man who picked his pocket. Hope you will take Ram Madhav's advice and survive.
 
There's nothing more calming in life than the silence of LK Advani. You may join that group of calm people. Rajnath will follow. We can always do with more path-pradarshaks. 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT







[home] [1] 2  [next]1-5 of 6


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WOOING THE PANTH
Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron
05.07.18 - kanwar manjit singh
Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron



PIARA SINGH WAS a little, chubby kid, studying in Class 2. His father Dilbagh Singh was a religious man. On that hot day in June, he was at Sri Harimandir Sahib to observe the martyrdom day of the Fifth Sikh Master. A grenade lobbed by the army left him injured. He was arrested and became a Jodhpur jail Sikh detenue. There was no one else to pay Piara Singh's school fee, so he dropped out of school. Dilbagh Singh died in 2012. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has cleared a payment of Rs 2.6 lakh as the state's part of the compensation amount. The Centre is in the court to contest that it should not be asked to pay its share.

Thirty-four years after that summer of 1984, and 27 years after the legal battle began, 40 of the 365 Sikh detenues, or their kin, finally received the compensation from the Punjab Government.

CM Amarinder Singh has announced that not only his government will award the same amount of compensation to all Jodhpur detenues, irrespective of whether or not they had gone to court to claim it, but will also pay the Centre's share if the Modi government failed to do so.

Amarinder Singh's government has also written to the Centre not to oppose in court the payment of the meagre compensation share.

The issue seems to have been cast aside from the headlines quickly, thanks to the drugs-related deaths and the Black Week Movement, and now the enhanced MSP of paddy and cotton, but political pundits are well aware of the potential spin this issue can give to partisan politics in Punjab.
----------
Time and again, Amarinder Singh is walking away with panthic issues. Time and again, the Badals have been huffing and puffing to keep pace and claim panthic territory.
----------
Given the fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal made the waiving off of the GST from Langar ingredients a major issue, only to find itself short changed by Arun Jaitley's clever manoeuvre, the Akalis could ill afford to lose a huge panthic issue to Amarinder Singh and the Congress party in Punjab.

Right from Harsimrat Kaur Badal downwards to the Akali Dal minions in back of the beyond villages, the party of the religion is finding it tough to convince people that the GST on Langar has ended in any kind of victory.

It is using the clergy to certify that the GST has been waived off. It is issuing statements thanking Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. Its apologists are finding it tough to tell the Sikh community that Sewa Bhoj Yojana and Langar is one and the same thing. It is challenging the wisdom of the entire chartered accountants' fraternity by spewing financial wisdom that reimbursement and waiver is the same thing. 

It still has to explain why the "waiver" is meant only for financial year 2018-19 to the financial year 2019-20.

If Narendra Modi had wanted, he could have allowed his cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to make the announcement. Instead, she was left to tweet thanks to Modi after the order came from the Ministry of Culture. Modi gave something that Harsimrat had been demanding for too long, but did not allow her to walk away with any credit.

On the other hand, he left room for Amarinder to take all credit for rising to the occasion on a panthic issue. Now, Amarinder can slam Sukhbir Singh Badal and his union minister wife for failing to convince Narendra Modi that the Centre should not oppose payment of compensation to Jodhpur detenues.

Time and again, Amarinder Singh is walking away with panthic issues. Time and again, the Badals have been huffing and puffing to keep pace and claim panthic territory.

It started way back during Amarinder Singh's earlier term as Chief Minister. Making his mark in politics by resigning his Lok Sabha seat in protest against Operation Bluestar, Amarinder Singh has given the Congress party a panthic tinge in a very calculated fashion.

He brought into the Congress fold people who had had a brush with militancy, all the while fending off sharp criticism from the likes of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and ilk. He celebrated Sikh centenaries, widened the bonds with western Punjab, actually led an official delegation there in 2004, then led a procession to install a golden palanquin at Sri Nankana Sahib, and made Harchand Singh Longowal anniversary into a state level event.

The Akali Dal patent on panthic turf continues to remain challenged, and Amarinder Singh can always hark back to his bravado in passing the Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, thus claiming credit for guarding the waters of Punjab and even challenging his own party leadership on this issue.

Time and again, Rahul Gandhi is refusing to give Amarinder Singh credit for what he has done. The Congress president has never referred to the farm loan waiver of Amarinder Singh, and his social media spin master Divya Spandna has never tweeted about any of the achievements of Punjab Government.

Amarinder Singh has projected himself as a force to reckon with vis-à-vis his party president Rahul Gandhi. In an authorised biography, he even admits/claims that he threatened to quit the Congress if he was not allowed to have his way. Compared to the Badals' near obsequious positioning vis-à-vis Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, Amarinder Singh appeals more to the constituency that always wants to see Punjab's leadership brave enough to stand up to Delhi.

If political pundits are to be believed, the powers that be in New Delhi are playing footsie with Amarinder Singh while repeatedly tripping alliance partner Akali Dal. 

If the Congress under Rahul Gandhi emerges stronger in the upcoming elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Amarinder Singh will be dealing with a much stronger party president. Given his nature, it may actually precipitate the state of affairs. A possible outcome could be Amarinder Singh building his own political vehicle, an idea he has toyed with in the past.

Notwithstanding his earlier public statements, Amarinder Singh may want to serve Punjab yet again, and this time, he may want a vehicle that he drives himself. In such a scenario, the image of a panth-prast leader would come in handy.

Prakash Singh Badal hobnobbed with the hotheads in Sikh politics for too long. No wonder, he had to attend many yagnas, pay floral tributes to many Hindu gods and goddesses, attend many jagratas, and stand with hands folded before many self-styled holy men to cultivate a secular image and the Hindu vote bank.

Amarinder Singh does not have to do any of that. His strong nationalist view point, his diatribes against Pakistan, his consistent praise for the armed forces and his line on Kashmir that the Army be given a free hand will do the trick for him.

All he has to do is to wean away some of the panthic vote bank from the Akali Dal. The compensation to the Jodhpur Sikh detenues fits in well with his strategy. It's a blank cheque that Amarinder Singh can encash at the hustings.

It could prove to be the crucial difference between victory and defeat. Amarinder Singh paid heavily in 2012 when he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2017, the Aam Aadmi Party did his job for him, painting the Akali Dal as a party of the corrupt. At the next electoral battle, with the third force weakened, Amarinder Singh would want the panthic constituency with him.

The Jodhpur detenues will make for a very potent statement. The GST on langar waiver not so much. The Akali Dal looks a lot more saffron. Amarinder Singh a lot less Congress wallah.
----------
The compensation to the Jodhpur Sikh detenues fits in well with his strategy. It's a blank cheque that Amarinder Singh can encash at the hustings.
----------
That's a spin Amarinder Singh would want. There is a palpable vacuum out there in the panthic constituency. The Shiromani Akali Dal is a brand that has been burdened by the rotting reputation that the Badals enjoy, and there is little chance that the owners will relinquish their ownership rights in order to save the brand. 

Saving the Brand Badal is a nightmare for any image consultant wizard — not just because the brand has been rubbished beyond repair, but also because the protagonists work hard every day to further erode value. Sukhbir Singh Badal’s best strategy to save the brand has been to speak even more, to take the front seat himself, to deploy a television channel devoted largely to singing praises of his wife's Nanhi Chhanv initiative and hailing ad nauseum her services to the panth.

They just don’t know how to stay away from a screen or a microphone. Whoever devises the peculiar image marketing strategy that "if people want to see less of you, you serve more of yourself to them," smokes something really strong.

In contrast, when it comes to Amarinder Singh, the chorus is that he is giving too little of himself to the people who voted him to power. They want more of Amarinder Singh. All he has to do is to spend less time on the hills, more in Punjab’s streets. Definitely a lot more in the Punjab Civil Secretariat.

Three photo-ops having langar, two visits to lesser known gurdwaras, a grant to preserve a historic place related to a Sikh guru, a chair in the name of a grand old deceased professor of Sikhism, a tiff with the Centre over increasing the number of pilgrims who can go to Nankana Sahib — Amarinder Singh can pull up any of the thousand ideas that even his tired and bored public relations department minions can suggest, and it will work. The Badals can do all of these and it may backfire. The reason? It’s the brand, stupid! 

Watch out for 2019, and surely for 2022 if Rahul Gandhi manages to suffer the Maharaja for that long. The Panth is ready. Is Amarinder, too?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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