‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP Leadership’

Anu Mann, an AAP supporter in Chandigarh, says the party leaders are grounded and have a connect with the people, unlike its erstwhile rulers

At 54 years of age, my generation has grown up with Punjab. I have witnessed Punjab at its peak during the Green Revolution and then at its lowest during the turbulent 80s. Things started looking somewhat bright during the 1990s but by mid-2000s they took a turn for the worse again.

From being the breadbasket of the country, we the Punjabis gradually began losing our identity as a prosperous state to ‘Udta Punjab’. Drug abuse began taking hold in almost every family. Villages after village lost their youth and men to the drug menace with women left behind to pick up the pieces, industries slowed down, corruption rose up, education took a hit, and Punjabis began leaving for greener pastures like Canada.

With Aam Aadmi Party’s electoral sweep, a hope has been rekindled that we have turned the corner. Punjab will reclaim its glory; we shall flourish again.

Personally, I feel liberated. I have travelled and lived around the country, but one always wants to come back to the roots. I used to feel sad at the sheer level of corruption, lack of jobs and good education, the lazy leadership, especially that of Captain Amarinder Singh who never mingled much with people. Sidhu has been and remains a crass leader.

Mann says she has grown up with Punjab and seen both its low point and high point

I had given up all hopes of a good leadership taking root in Punjab until AAP brought in its refreshing governance style. Of course the road for the Bhagwant Mann-led government is going to be long and difficult but given how they have managed Delhi, I have high hopes for Punjab in the coming years. I have myself worked at a summer teaching programme of AAP in Delhi government schools and I was impressed how AAP involves ordinary people in their governance apparatus.

ALSO READ: Now, Punjab Has A Future

This election result saw seasoned political personalities humiliated by common, first-time contestants (like mobile shop owner Labh Singh who defeated Channi). I feel the happiest about the victory of Jeevan Jyot Kaur who defeated Majithia and Navjot Sidhu because women’s issues will now get the spotlight. There are 13 doctors who have been elected as MLAs; they will definitely feel the pulse of the people, both literally and metaphorically.

Bhagwant Mann’s passionate involvement, unlike Amarinder Singh’s ivory tower life, in everyday matters of the state is a refreshing change. AAP ke sare candidates dharti se jude hue log hain, samaj se jude hue log hain (AAP leaders have an ear to the ground, they have a connect with the masses).

All in all, the victory of AAP in Punjab is truly the victory of ordinary people. AAP’s campaigning was also totally fuss-free, they neither disturbed nor bribed voters, maybe other parties would do well to learn from them.

Mann in a celebratory mood after AAP victory

I was so happy and excited on the day of election results that I distributed mithais, made a celebratory dance video and sent it to my loved ones. And I couldn’t stop talking to my friends about how happy I was. Mann needs a lot of cooperation from people and I hope the janta will give it to him.

Weekly Update: Punjab, Lotharios & Politicians; Global Britain Single Focus

Punjab’s politics seems to be like the last days of the Sikh Raj in 1840s. But more than that, it seems Pollywood has taken over politics and made it into an entertainment, splashing a different twist every day on the media. Some of the politicians appear to be political Lotharios looking for Sugar Daddys, bed hopping political parties like the changing mix of papri chaat. Some politicians are even threatening to form new types of Political Papri Chaat.

It all started with the Badals, the most promiscuous of ideological bed-hoppers. Senior Badal raised issues of Sikhs, then went against them, detaining hundreds if not thousands. He then became Indian nationalist and made the party ‘secular’. He then tied nuptials with the BJP, gathering substantive Punjabi Hindu vote. He then decided to make this historic party into a family enterprise, casting away other powerful and serious Akali leaders and promoting his son for the succession.

Instead of demanding resolution of Sikh issues such as release of long held political prisoners etc, he demanded a berth for his family at the BJP Cabinet. He then divorced the BJP as it became a liability. The father-son duo realised BJP was toxic after farmers rose against farm laws. Badals are now desperately seeking a link up with any party, such as Bahujan Samaj etc. The Akali Dal is now an unrecognisable party. What does it stand for? What is its political ideology except to protect the Badal family? They have their own TV channel to boast of ‘what they will do’ that they were not able to do in the long reign of Badals before.

It seems Punjabis have decided politicians are always acting. So why not put in professional actors. There is Navjot Sidhu, Deep Sidhu and now Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu (Moosewala). It seems the Sidhu clan have taken over entertainment from traditional marasis. All these three have provided endless entertainment off stage and on stage, in politics and in entertainment media.

Moosewalla played to the Khalistani sentiments, exploiting Bhindranwale and secessionist desires in his songs. He has now joined Congress, the party that in power attacked Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) and killed thousands of Sikhs. In Punjab politics, such hoola hoops raise no eyebrows.

In fact, Navjot Sidhu himself has been like a ‘Bhambiri’ (spinning top) on a string. It seems whereever the pull of political gravity is heavy, he falls onto that side with a hundred explanations on why he did that to save the Punjab (from itself). After retiring from serious cricket, he became a clownish entertainer. He joined the BJP, then the Congress. The two parties that have no common political ideology. Only in Punjab can one be a secularist and Hindutva-wadi within a period of 24 hours and still have integrity. Punjabis have no concept of political ideology any more. Politics is entertainment. Sidhu apparently even considered joining Akalis at one time as well but senior Badal had already decided on the succession.

Deep Sidhu of the Khalistani flag at Lal Qila fame is another entertainer. Delivering speeches best suited to an emotional Sikh nationalist drama documentary, Deep decided to be the bull in a China shop during the very well organised peaceful march in Delhi by farmers protesting against farm laws. The world was awestruck at the size of the march and more importantly that it was peaceful. Most of the protestors were and are Sikhs. The Image of Sikhs as peaceful marchers was going down in the annals of history. World opinion had started swinging in favour of the farmers. The BJP government was worried.

Deep Sidhu did the spoiler as many suspect. He fired a group of youth. A breakaway section who put the Sikh religious flag, Nishan Sahib, on a historic seat of power turned museum building called Lal Qila. Violence happened and turned the media hostile. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful farmers had to struggle peacefully for another eight months to get repeal of the farm laws.

Why Lal Qila? It was the throne of the Mughals. Sikh General Baghel Singh had successfully taken over the Mughal seat of power in 1783 for a short time and installed the Sikh flag there. Now Lal Qila is a museum. Anyone can hire it for a day and put any flag there, family flag, corporate flag, Tik Tok flag, even a Sikh flag during the day of hire. It doesn’t need a mock siege. Just hire the building from the Dalmias.

The Govt of India hires it for Republic Day etc and puts its flags all over. Why Indian media made the Deep Sidhu episode into ‘attack on Indian sovereignty’ is another of those hilarious Indian politics cum entertainment dramas. It would have been an episode worthy of Baghel Singh’s courage had Deep Sidhu himself gone and put the Sikh flag on Rashtarpati Bhavan (Presidential Palace). That is where the seat of power in India is now. But Sikh courage now lives bravely on the celluloid and Tik Tok reality, so a flag at Lal Qila can be turned into the most heroic episode for a Sikh generation groomed on virtual reality. Consequently, Deep Sidhu is in the running now for some sort of leadership but looking for a home.

There is of course Amarinder Singh. Captain Sahib, Maharajah Sahib, Leader Sahib who knows. He hails from the great Maharajah family of Patiala who gave their formidable army over to India in return for being Maharajah forever only to find that Indira Gandhi asset-stripped him and made him a commoner after buying him out with some peanuts. So much for political acumen in the family. Captain-Maharajah-Neta Amarinder Singh found that politics can be entertaining. He was first elected under Congress in 1980, then resigned after Operation Bluestar, then joined Akalis and then sensing he was to remain second in any succession, joined Congress again and became the CM. He has now left Congress and threatening to form a new party. Rumours are that he is now in bed with BJP.

And there can be so much written about Bhagwant Maan of AAP. It could take pages.

Is there an ideological gap between Akalis, Congress, AAP and BJP? Not in Punjab which is ideologically rudderless. Party hopping is so common, no one in Punjab probably knows what any of the parties stand for. They all promise swarg (heaven).

There is now a melee of politician-entertainers in Punjab. In fact the whole Punjab politics has become one great entertainment industry. It is difficult to know who is a political Lothario and who is a serious politician. Perhaps, Punjab is showing, politics does not matter. It is all razzmatazz after all. Today here and tomorrow there. Secular one day, Khalistani another day and then Hindutva-wadi the third day. It’s just actors mugging up for a part.

Global Britain’s Focussed Foreign Policy

It used to be Pakistan that was famously mocked for a single focus foreign policy. It was Kashmir, Kashmir and Kashmir. Pakistan Foreign Policy has become more diverse now with Afghanistan and China among other interests. Where Pakistan left, it is Global Britain that is filling the vacuum of one focussed Foreign Policy. Its obsession is France.

It seems the bumble bee Prime Minister of Global Britain, Boris Johnson gets up every morning and dreams up ideas on how to ‘piss off the French’. Brexit Britain hasn’t quite turned into Rule Britannia as he had promised. So why not rally the nationalists against the oldest enemy on tap, France.

There is more coverage of spats with France in British media than any serious Foreign Policy. To get the French colourful language retched up a bit, Boris proposed in full social media glare that he send troops to France to ‘jointly’ guard against all those illegal boat people crossing over into Global Britain. This would be akin to India offering to send troops into Pakistan to stop insurgency crossing over into Jammu Kashmir.

Of course, Macron (France) had a few ‘curses’ to utter against Global Boris in private. In public he banned the British Home Minister from a meeting. British commentators called it ‘over reaction’ without adding ‘over reaction to a clown’.

More ‘illegal’ migrants have been invading the Global Britain shores since on boats. Meanwhile Boris who plays Laurel (from Laurel and Hardy) in real life with even scratching his hair and head, is dreaming of another shot at the French. What an end to an inglorious Empire and its once renown diplomatic corps.

‘Sidhu Has Harmed His Party, He Is A Bad Team Leader’

Dr Bhojdev Brar (22) from Amritsar says celebrities do not always make good politicians and all the good work by Navjot Singh Sidhu was undone by his image politics

Punjab politics is going through such confusing times, I wonder how things will shape up in the next few months when Punjab Assembly elections are held. I belong to Amritsar, the constituency of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is slowly turning out to be one of the most divisive figures of Punjab politics.

I feel he is eyeing the Chief Minister’s seat in the strategic state as in these important times (because of farmer protests). But the way he is going about it doesn’t seem very well thought out. He seems temperamental, hasty in decision making and someone who doesn’t think too well before taking a step. Soon after he resigned, another minister from the Charanpreet Singh Channi cabinet, Razia Sultana, Punjab Congress General Secretary Yoginder Dhingra and party treasurer Gulzar Inder Chahal also resigned from the party. This then becomes more about a person and less about the interests of the party.

I don’t think image politics can influence the electorate deeply if there is no weight behind their words. These celebrities or personalities cannot just bank on their image or previous charisma to get votes, they need to keep interacting with the people who voted for them and upgrade their understanding. There are so many celebrities who are good at what they do, but aren’t able to walk the long road in politics.

Metro Man, Mr E Sreedharan can be considered an example. Sidhu has walked a longer and more active road than most other celebs (17 years in active politics), but I feel he still doesn’t know the art of walking in unison with others, he still considers himself above the party.

Dr Brar with farmer leader Rakesh Tikait (left) and with Dr Swaiman Singh (extreme right in green), a New Jersey-based cardiologist who came to India to support farmers protesting agaisnt Central farm laws

And in times like these, especially in the post-Covid world, we need compassionate, considerate and calm leaders; leaders who have the capacity to listen to people’s concerns as much as they can speak. Covid has shown us how each leader is important right from the ward level to the Prime Minister level and we can’t be lax with who we choose to power.

Sidhu has done some good work in Amritsar like building road, strengthening the metro bus service, but he should also look into important matters like reducing corruption at all levels, strengthening the administrative machinery and easing governance in general so that people find it easy to approach the government on important matters.

ALSO READ: Comedy Of Errors: Capt On Congress Crisis

Moreover, I feel surprised why doesn’t he stand secure in his own identity? Why is trying to pit himself as an alternative to Captain Amarinder Singh? He should focus more on what is being and not being done in his own constituency rather than galloping off to Patiala, the constituency of Captain Singh.

If many people say that Captain Singh is growing old, then the ex-Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh led the country efficiently even at an advanced age, an Sidhu is probably showing the folly of youth. Punjab needs leaders who are cool, calm, composed and yet not afraid to take the lead, if the situation so demands.

I am keeping a keen eye on the news developments and in these times of social media boom, celebs image can fall down as quickly as they can be built. So people should be careful about each step in politics. They should aim at serving the public and not their image.

Weekly Update: Corporate-Civil Service Divide; Captain Deserts, Cong At Sea

Grit and determination are what helped Shubham Kumar, this year’s topper in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination, realise his ambitions. It was his third attempt this year. Last year, when Kumar took the exam, he was selected but his rank was 268. Kumar wanted to realise his ambition to do much better. So he took the exam again. This time, he topped.

Kumar, 24, comes from Kumhari village in the Kadwa block of Katihar district in Bihar. It is in a zone that is chronically ravaged by floods. The son of a rural bank’s branch manager, Kumar, a graduate of IIT-Mumbai, has always been determined about pursuing success single-mindedly. And, from a very young age, he wanted to become an IAS officer, a dream that has now come true.

The examinations conducted by the UPSC are for aspiring candidates who want to join the elite bureaucratic cadres in India–including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. Every year, as many as a million candidates register for the examination and of them,about half actually complete the exams. But the number of positions that they compete for is less than 1,000. So the percentage of candidates selected from all of those who take the tests is 0.2%. There are very few competitive exams in the world that are as difficult to crack as the UPSC examination.

Kumar is emblematic of the drive that UPSC toppers demonstrate. Last year’s topper, Pradeep Singh, son of a village sarpanch from Tewari village in Haryana’s Sonipat district, made it to the top rank in his second attempt. Kumar and Singh are also examples of how, increasingly, aiming high in the UPSC exams has become more an objective of, often less privileged, rural Indian youth rather than their more well-heeled urban counterparts.

Although accurate statistics are not easy to come by, it is estimated that the majority of the candidates that get selected for UPSC’s elite cadres each year come from the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Of course, these two states are among India’s most populous ones–UP has over 200 million people, of which 77% live in villages; and Bihar has a population of 104 million, of which 88% live in villages. In UP, there is a tiny village named Madhopatti in the Sirkoni block of Jaunpur district, where just 75 households live and, it is believed, that each of these households has at least one member of the family in one of the elite UPSC services. It is even known as the Officer’s Village of India.

Why do rural youths seem to aspire more to join the UPSC cadres more than urban youths do? Is it because the cachet attached to those services appears to be valued more highly in India’s villages and small towns than in its cities? Is it a truism that India’s urban youths eye careers in the corporate world, and aspire more for an MBA tag than that of an IAS, IFS, or IAS? Questions such as those require sociological probes.

Is there a divide between India’s youth? Are India’s urban youngsters more westernised, corporatised and lured by wealth and material acquisitions? An MBA from even a low-tier business school could expect a starting salary of Rs 1lakh plus a month, which is roughly double of what a freshly-minted IAS officer makes. But a job in the corporate sector has none of the responsibility, commitment and dedication to nation building or administration that comes with the job of being a civil servant. Half of India’s 1.36 billion people are below the age of 25. With such a huge proportion of youth among its population, questions such as the ones just posited require to be addressed.

Captain Ejects

One month is a long time in politics. The latest example of this truism is the Punjab unit of the Grand Old Party. At the beginning of September, it seemed Captain Amarinder Singh was firmly in the saddle, despite a bitter faceoff with newly-appointed Pradesh Congress head Navjot Singh Sidhu. The party seemed to be in pole position for the next Assembly election due early next year. Captain had made the right noises amid raging protests against central farm laws and this was not lost on the state electorate. The second week of September saw Sidhu garnering support of state legislators who were miffed with the Chief Minister, and there were quite a few of them.

Interestingly, Captain had more support from Congress leaders active in Delhi than in Punjab. However, Gandhis seemed tilted in favour of Navjot Sidhu who paraded about three dozen MLAs to buttress his claims in public view. Before the end of third week, Amarinder Singh put in a one-line resignation to the state governor. The wounded tiger minced no words in raising questions on Sidhu leadership. The acrimony did its damage to the Congress party.

The Congress went into a huddle to pick up the next chief minister, months ahead of elections. When they picked up Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh, for a state which has about 30% Dalit voters, some viewed it as a masterstroke to resurrect the turbulent jet. Barely had it gained balance, just a week after the Captain had deserted the ship, when the mercurial Sidhu rocked the boat once again. Citing some ‘unexplained’ principles, Sidhu quit as the PCC chief, making himself as the shortest PCC chief in the party’s recent history. Captain was grinning from ear to ear, with a told-you-so look on his face. His exit from the party, with a vow to defeat Sidhu in next election, brought the unwashed linen in public.

Central leaders like Manish Tiwari and Kapil Sibal, dubbed as members of G-23 band of party ‘rebels’, found an apt opportunity to question the party leadership in handling the matter. From the numero uno status in the beginning of month, the state Congress unit had egg on its face just before the flip of the calendar leaf. The electorate must also be thinking: if a party cannot manage its domestic affairs, how will it rule a border state effectively?

Now, Sidhu Asks Muslims To Vote En Bloc

Punjab Minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday warned Muslims not to split their votes and instead defeat BJP by voting against it unitedly.

His comments come in the wake of Election Commission’s recent gag order on BSP chief Mayawati for similar remarks made at a rally in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh.

“I am here to warn my Muslim brothers. They (BJP) are dividing you. By bringing people like (Asaduddin) Owaisi in here (Katihar), by making a new party stand for elections, they want to divide your vote for winning. If you people unite and vote unitedly then everything will overturn and Modi will be finished,” said Sidhu.

“This will be a sixer. Hit such a sixer that Modi is sent out of the boundary,” Sidhu added by invoking reference of cricket, a sport which he had retired from after playing in the national team.

Meanwhile, the BJP said it has approached the Election Commission against Sidhu. “We met Election Commission and made them aware of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s statement made at a rally in Katihar, earlier in the day,” Bihar BJP Vice President Devesh Kumar said. “They said they have seen the footage and have assured us that necessary action will be taken,” he said.

At a press conference in New Delhi Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also called out the cricketer-turned-politician for his polarising comments.

Earlier on April 11, Sidhu had slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that the country will get finished if he becomes the Prime Minister for the second term. “If Modi comes to power for the second term, then the country would be finished,” Sidhu had said.

Lok Sabha elections in Bihar are being held in all seven phases where grand alliance of . The counting of votes will take place on May 23.

(ANI)

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