Just a day before Punjab goes to polls, Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh’s grandnephew Yadvinder Singh has issued an appeal in favour of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi who is contesting from Ferozepur assembly seat. Yadvinder who is the grandson of Sardar Kulbir Singh the brother of legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has asked people of Ferozepur to vote for the BJP. He also appealed to the people that problems faced by people of Ferozepur will be resolved with the election of Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi. Incidentally, Kulbir Singh’s son Abhay Singh had represented Ferozepur as member of the Punjab Assembly. He had then won on the ticket of Jan Sangh which later on became BJP.
Appeal by Yadvinder Singh in favour of the BJP candidate is significant since Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had claimed to own the legacy of Bhagat Singh after Kumar Vishwas, one of the founding member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused him of hobnobbing with Khalistanis. While AAP is on the backfoot after Kumar Vishwas’s interview to a news agency. The social media teams of BJP and Congress have become hyperactive and WhatsApp groups are being bombed with the explosive clip containing the statement of Kumar Vishwas about AAP supremo Kejriwal.
On the other hand, BJP has been trying hard to resurrect itself in Punjab. It has launched a frontal attack on AAP and Kejriwal on Kumar Vishwas’ allegation. Kejriwal did try to wriggle out of this controversy but damage has already been done. Malwa the crucial area of Punjab with 69 assembly seats, where AAP was having strong support, appear to have slipped away from its grasp.
Most importantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies in Punjab have worked in favour of the BJP in Punjab that goes to polls on Sunday. Prime Minister addressed election rallies in Malwa, Doaba and Majha regions on 14, 16 and 17 February. His rallies were aimed at addressing the voters of BJP where it has strong presence. It was also aimed at reaching out to the voters who were still undivided. His outreach with the Sikh religious heads and the subsequent meeting at his official residence in New Delhi, did send a signal to the Sikh community as to how he felt about the community and its immense contribution in the nation building.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, senior BJP leader and the former President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) played an important part in bridging the politically created chasm between the BJP and ‘Sikh Sangat’. Sirsa was in the forefront in bringing all the religious heads of Sikh bodies and had accompanied them to the official residence of the Prime Minister on Friday. What caught the attention of Sikhs was the picture of Sikh priests carrying Siri Sahib (Sword) with them. There were instructions from the Prime Minister they should be allowed to carry Siri Sahib without being checked.
A delegation of displaced Sikhs from Afghanistan also met the Prime Minister on Saturday and lauded his attempt in bringing Guru Granth Sahibji with full respect to Delhi. Political pundits say these steps by the Prime Minister Modi have helped in instilling a sense of security among the Sikhs that the Indian Government was standing firmly behind them and it should reflect when people of Punjab go to cast their votes.
With Radha Soami Satsang and Dera Sacha Sauda pitching for the BJP, the electoral battle has become interesting, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprising of BJP, Captain Amrinder Singh led Punjab Lok Congress and former Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s Shiromani Akali Dal (S) is contesting on all 117 seats. NDA leaders are upbeat over the increased support to their candidates after PM Modi’s rallies and his meeting with Sikh religious leaders.
Another factor that seems to be working in favour of the BJP is the total revamp of the birth place of Sant Ravidas in Varanasi. Prime Minister had promised to restore the old glory of Sant Ravidas temple to the followers of Ravidasia sect who are a formidable vote bank ( 21%) in Punjab. Prime Minister’s participation at Sant Ravidas temple in Delhi’s Karol Bagh and visuals of him sitting with devotees, has been received well among the followers of Sant Ravidas.
While NDA has gone all cylinders firing, Arvind Kejriwal led AAP is not leaving any stone unturned too. However, its prospects of winning Punjab elections received a body blow after Kumar Vishwas’ serious allegations against Kejriwal’s political ambitions bordering on even secessionism. AAP’s not so convincing clarification has failed to cut ice with the electorate. They feel that there is much more than what meets the eye.
On the other hand, Congress has launched an all-out offensive against AAP and its social media teams are circulating clips of Kumar Vishwas’s statement against Kejriwal. There were protests in certain areas of Punjab after Vishwas’ statement against Kejriwal went viral. Taking the fight to another level, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi wrote a letter to Union Home and Cooperation Minister Amit Shah to probe Vishwas’s allegations against AAP Convenor Kejriwal as these were very serious in nature. Amit Shah too responded to Channi’s communique and assured him of a thorough probe on Khalistan links and strong actions if charges were proved.
To make matters worse for AAP, Sanyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM), the umbrella body of farmers that was in the forefront against the anti-farm bills movement, is contesting Punjab Assembly elections with Balbir Singh Rajewal as its president. Rajewal is said to wield considerable clout among the peasant’s community in the Malwa region.
With SSM (comprising of 22 farmers bodies) joining the poll fray, the caste dynamics of voters has turned upside down. Political analysts feel, though SSM may not win seats but it will eat away a sizeable chunk of the 32 percent Dalit votes. Congress is expected to be affected by this division of votes. SSM’s presence in the poll arena is bad news for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and AAP as well. The middle class urban and rural classes that appeared inclined towards AAP hoping for a change in Punjab, seem to be leaning towards the SSM. After AAP refused point blank to give seats to SKM citing its own survey across 117 Punjab seats, there is no love lost between the two parties. However, the simmering discontent of the rural farmers against dominant Jatt Sikhs is likely to getting divided, political watchers say. Sensing this divide, Congress Congress is going to the town and telling voters that Channi is Dalit.
Overall, Punjab elections have become multi-cornered with NDA, Congress, SAD (Badal), AAP and SSM fighting it out to reach to the podium finish. We shall know it on March 10, 2022 who has won Punjab and what were the factors for catapulting the Number-1 position in the bitterly contested Punjab Assembly elections-2022