Punjab: SAD-BJP old ties and Capt on mind, Congress to wait it out

Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Pargat Singh and others, called the announcement of repeal a victory of agitating farmers.

AFTER the sudden announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on repealing the Centre’s farm laws, the ruling Congress in Punjab has adopted a wait-and-watch-policy even as it watches closely the SAD and BJP if they would come together ahead of 2022 Assembly elections again.

Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Pargat Singh and others, called the announcement of repeal a victory of agitating farmers. The party is, however, discussing internally that even if the BJP’s decision was mainly focussed on UP elections, the fact that it was announced on Gurpurab was to convey a message to Punjabis that it was aimed at placating them.

“For now, we are confident that it would not harm us but we will have to wait and watch how Punjabis react to the development. Punjabis are reactive voters. Let us see,” a Congress leader said.

The Congress has already been watching ousted chief minister Amarinder Singh, who had floated his own party recently and stated that he would go with the BJP in next elections. The Congress is now wary that his party, with support from the BJP, may not become an asylum for the upset Congressmen, who would be ignored during distribution of tickets.  “We were not sure if the laws would be repealed. But we will certainly think about a strategy about how the development is taken,” said a party leader, adding that “after all, 700 farmers were martyred in the agitation. If the BJP gets a positive outcome for repeal of farm laws, the negativity of so many farmer deaths will also stick to it”.  An unfazed Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi also told the media that the announcement was too late, “About 700 farmers laid down their lives in the struggle. If these laws were to be repealed, then why did it take so long?” he asked. He said the outcome would benefit the Congress as the party stood with the farmers all along. “We will stand with the farmers further too,” he said.  Cabinet Minister Pargat Singh, who also said the decision was much delayed, told The Indian Express, “We had a workers’ meeting in Jalandhar today with AICC-incharge Harish Chaudhary chairing it. There is no concern at the grassroots level about the BJP’s decision today.”

However, the Congress is internally worrying that if SAD and BJP come together, then there could be tough times for the Congress ahead, especially in urban seats. “On the urban seats, where the traders were unhappy with farmers’ agitation, SAD’s re-alliance may affect the Congress,” said a leader. He also said that this may polarise Jat Sikhs in the state as the Congress had recently named an SC the CM of the state.

SAD chief Sukhbir Badal, however, reiterated on Friday that he would not go with the BJP at any cost.

The Congress, however, is wary. “SAD got separated from BJP on the issue of farm laws. Now the issue has been resolved. They can always come together. Also, both the parties have now realised that.

On former chief minister Amarinder, the Congress leaders The Indian Express spoke to had a dismissive stand. “The BJP did not even give him any credit. Modi made sure he gets all the credit. It is clear to all the Punjabis that he had no say in repeal of laws,” said a party leader on anonymity.

Welcoming the decision to repeal laws, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said the Union government should pay homage to the farmers who were martyred in the agitation and apologise to their families. After 11 months of torture, the farmer movement had forced the Central government to admit its mistake, he added.

Randhawa asked the Union government to provide maximum assistance to the farmers to save the country from starvation. He along with his Cabinet colleagues Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Bharat Bhusan Ashu, Randeep Singh Nabha, Raj Kumar Verka and other ministers and MLAs paid obeisance at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib on Friday.

While terming the repealing of farm laws a victory of the ‘Satyagrah’ of Sanyukat Kisan Morcha (SKM), Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said that this decision on the historic day of Guru Nanak Dev’s Parkash Purab is because of the blessings of Guru Nanak Dev. He said that if someone admits one’s mistake then Punjab should forgive as today is a great day when Kartarpur corridor has already opened.

He was at Sultanpur Lodhi to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Ber Sahib and Gurdwara Hut Sahib on the occasion of 552nd birthday of the founder of Sikh religion.

“If I get permission to visit Karatarpur Sahib tomorrow, then I will raise a demand for a clear roadmap for the progress of the Punjab state,” he told the media. “No one should get the credit as all credit goes to SKM which follows the path of dharma.”

State Agriculture Minister Randeep Singh Nabha termed the announcement of repeal of the three farm laws as a victory for the country. He said that the Centre’s decision was also commendable as they made the announcement on the pious day of Guru Nanak Jayanti.  Nabha urged the Centre to rehabilitate the families of those who had lost their near and dear ones in the agitation against the farm laws as well as provide compensation to the families of farmers who died during the agitation.

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