Saturday, March 11, 2017

5 reasons for shocking defeat of AAP in Punjab

Despite the anti-incumbency factor, while the Akalis have done fairly better than expected, it is the AAP’s poor performance that has shocked both the party and its admirers the most. Image result for photo of aap leaders

Raj Rishi

Not only the Aam Aadmi Party itself, but even a large number of the neutral media and the pollsters predicted its victory in Punjab though the victory margins projected by them varied significantly.

While some media houses predicted that AAP could win more than 80 seats (of 117); the same was predicted by Huffington Post which said that AAP would be the new king of Punjab politics.

The exit polls, however, gave Congress around 65 seats and AAP around 55 seats and predicted complete decimation of Akalis and BJP combine. While the exit polls’ projection of Congress victory proved almost accurate, the seats won by AAP and Akalis have belied them completely.

 Despite the anti-incumbency factor, while the Akalis have done fairly better than expected, it is the AAP’s poor performance that has shocked both the party and its admirers the most. The party had started its campaign much before other parties and indeed worked very hard to ensure its victory. It reached almost every home individually in every nook and corner of the state including the small villages and hamlets in remote areas.

AAP’s rallies, particularly, those of Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant  Mann attracted huge crowds. People flocked to hear them voluntarily coming by their own conveyances -- bicycles, tractors and busses. There appeared no reason why AAP would not form the government in Punjab.

But it has lost miserably in the sense that its vote share has not improved from 2014 Parliamentary elections despite the fact that it did not put any significant effort to mobilise the people in 2014 like it has done for assembly polls.

Here are 5 reasons why AAP has not done well in Punjab.

1. Sikh majority state

Punjab is a Sikh majority state. It doesn’t mean that Sikhs are anti-Hindus. It only means and quite naturally, that they want a Sikh chief minister and certainly not a ‘topi wala’ or his Sikh protégé.

 Despite specific assurance given repeatedly by Arvind Kejriwal that he would not leave Delhi to be the chief minister of Punjab and that the chief minister for the state would be someone from Punjab, people somehow felt that the person nominated by him, even if Bhagwant Mann,a Jatt Sikh, would be his proxy and follow his dictates. In other words, Kejriwal, a topiwala and an outsider, would be the virtual ruler of Punjab.


2.   Dominance of Jatt Sikhs in the state polity

A large majority of Sikhs in Punjab comprises prosperous and powerful Jatt Sikhs. Most of them are   big landowners and industrialists who command terrific influence over other communities especially dalit Sikhs, poor farmers and other minorities by virtue of their money and muscle power. It does not matter whether these powerful belong to the ruling  Shiromani Akali Dal or the opposition Congress - both are two sides of the same coin as Arvind Kejriwal says quite often.

A common Punjabi knows that they cannot live peacefully without the patronage of the powerful Jatt leaders irrespective of their party affiliations. They simply cannot afford to antagonise them even by voting against them through a secret ballot.


3. The stature and standing of Captain Amrinder Singh

Not even the tallest leader of Aam Aadmi Party  in Punjab including Bhagwant Mann and HS Phoolka   can match the towering personality of the Captain considering his age, standing and decade’s long experience in Punjab politics.  In Patiala, he is revered as Raja Saheb. People have huge faith in his leadership despite his royal aloofness and refusal to entertain them after the evening. Compared with him, Bhagwant Singh Mann, the possible choice for CM if AAP won, is just a young rookie in politics.  The other possible choice HS Phoolka has no strong political standing in Punjab despite his long record of tireless services to the 1984 anti-riot victims of Sikh community as a lawyer.  Or, may be, the time has healed the wounds of the 1984 riots inflicted by none other than Congress leaders.


4. Committed voter in Punjab

Both the Akali Dal and the Congress   have been power in the state since independence and they have developed a huge constituency of committed voters. They vote only for these parties irrespective of their ideologies or policies. These parties are so deeply entrenched in the Punjab polity that it would be quite a marvel if Aam Aadmi Party had been able to   wrest power in the state.

Going by this state of affairs, it appears doubtful that AAP would ever be able to win elections in Punjab and form the government there, unless it wins a large section of powerful Jatt Sikh community to its fold, which is unthinkable considering AAP’s anti-rich and anti- feudal image and its proclivity for wooing the poor and the marginalized as its vote bank. Moreover, it is rather difficult to be powerful and rich without corruption.


5. Corruption, drugs and black money – non issues

 The raison d'être of Aam Aadmi Party is its anathema to corruption, nepotism and black money etc. Unfortunately they are non- issues especially in Punjab. Sadly enough, even the rampant escalation of drugs in the state unleashed by the powerful vested interests including both the Akalis and the Congressmen.  The top leadership of both the parties is intertwined with each other through social and matrimonial bonds and has no scruples in making money through drugs and corruption with mutual support.

Despite the statistics showing a massive number of young men in Punjab afflicted with drug addiction resulting in loss in financial and health terms and AAP having made it a major poll plank, it appears that people don’t attach the same degree of importance to drugs affliction that the AAP thinks it deserves. A very large majority of people in Punjab drink alcohol as a part of their daily routine and perhaps they take drugs also quite as lightly, or so it appears from the election results.

Not only the rich and the powerful Jatt Sikhs, but also the commoners including the Dalits and the poor people have accepted corruption as an inevitable-not necessarily evil- component of daily life. They are, at best, apathetic to the issue of corruption and consider it too deeply entrenched to be bothered about.   And let’s not forget that the aam aadmi violates the law almost on a daily basis for whatever reasons and wishes to get away by paying bribes.

If Aam Aadmi Party wishes to win elections in Punjab, it will have to rope in some committed Jatt Sikh of high stature and not a common Sikh like Bhagwant Mann, howsoever, committed he may be to its ideology, to lead it  almost independently-- without appearing to be a proxy of  Kejriwal and Co. That appears to be a rather difficult proposition.





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