The month of February will bear witness to one of the biggest ballot battles of the year, if you’re playing predictable, you’re thinking UP, if you know where the real battle is, you’re thinking Punjab. The battle lines are drawn between the ruling alliance of Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP, the AAP and Congress.
For 10 years the SAD has ruled over Punjab, one of the most prosperous principalities in all the land. King Badal the Bold holds absolute power over his kingdom, a land far far away from all India’s usual troubles where honey and milk flow , all the cattle give birth to triplets and fields grow bounties of gold. At least that’s the fairy tale the BJP wants to spoon-feed to its average voter. Unfortunately the country is decreasingly susceptible to things they’re told over what they see.
So what’s wrong with this fantasy world of elves and rainbows? I present to you the 5 woes of Punjab:
The issue in the national limelight right now post the release of a mainstream movie on the same. Every major party agrees that it is a menace , in perhaps an unlikely consensus, but no one coming to the more important consensus on how to deal with it.
No one even knows just how bad the situation really is because the government keeps claiming that there is no drug problem and that the AAP and Congress are trying to “defame” the state by accusing the Punjabi youth of drug abuse. Just like they were trying to “defame” Modi by linking him to the Godhra riots.
It’s not that big a surprise that the SAD has failed to crack down on the drug trade, especially considering their own involvement in the issue. After all, why would anyone expect a government run by drug lords to crack-down (#pun) on drug abuse?
The BJP has long used the corruption barb against Congress, but they should probably take a better look at their allies first.
Industries that are not affiliated to the Badals cannot survive in Punjab because they cannot afford the bribes that are demanded of them. Beyond this, there is a multitude of scams that the government conducted in the farming sector with losses ranging between 1000 and 20,000 crores. A massive scam that led to poor distribution of pesticides to cotton farmers caused huge losses to relatively small-scale farmers.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, in an act of absolute wizardry that would make Harry Potter look like a street-side illusionist, food grains worth 20,000 crores disappeared overnight without a trace. Even if they lose their political stronghold, the Badals definitely have a bright future in showbiz.
Well this should be fairly obvious or, at least, more than implied. If the government can’t provide pesticides and fertilizers or even keep the food grains they’ve collected from playing Houdini, how on earth are farmers supposed to survive?
Punjab has for a long time been the agricultural heart of India and yet, while they may have provided roads and electricity, the SAD has done squat to help the farmers who make up most of their constituencies. With increasing crop failures and decreasing government support, Punjab’s green belt has turned into a suicide belt. So much so that official figures are “presently unavailable”. But of course it’s all probably an elaborate scheme to “defame” the Punjabi farmers.
Now this is a touchy subject. The SAD and the BJP are content blaming all the state’s woes on “defamation” and Pakistan but the fact remains that Punjab has always been a very volatile state. Years may have passed since the Khalistan movement and Operation Blue Star but it is still not something Punjabis have forgotten.
The BJP has accused the Congress of branding Punjab as a terrorist state and the Congress have in turn linked Parkash Singh Badal to the Khalistan movement which isn’t an accusation to be taken lightly. On top of all that, there is the ever-looming threat of Pakistan at the border which the BJP intends to use to their advantage but just how effective that might be is questionable.
In a very clear attempt to hijack the general animosity towards the noisy neighbours on the left, the BJP has decided to field Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh who died in a Pakistani prison after being accused of espionage. This after a possible bout of amnesia considering she seems to have forgotten all the good things she had once said about Rahul Gandhi and how he was the only leader who (despite or possibly because of his childish nature) actually tried to bring her brother home.
The BJP is content blaming Pakistan for every slight, real and imagined, but except for the much-celebrated surgical strikes the government hasn’t exactly done anything to end terrorism.
The Modi factor:
Well this is the BJP’s secret weapon, their coup de grace, their Trump (the current context demands the clarification of this being no US President, or perhaps, with his unlikely victory, he could be metaphor after all) card. After all, everyone loves Modi, right?
Well if the BJP had considered the results from Bihar, Delhi and Kerala they probably wouldn’t have bothered with this last ditch move. And all that was before the currency wipe out and revamp which ended up almost entirely demonetizing the Modi coin.
None of the big wallets that are associated with the SAD or the BJP have been affected in any major way but to the debt-ridden farmers of Punjab who have already been frustrated by starvation and the rampant drug trade it has been nothing but Hell. In fact, most of them would rather rip Modi’s beard off and make chai with it than listen to him boast about how he’s conducted surgical strikes on the equivalent of a plate of dhokla.
So while Modi may declare Arvind Kejriwal as an outsider who should go back to Delhi, most Punjabis would rather have Modi leave the country, go on one of his world tours and never come back.
We still can’t be sure which way the election might swing. The latest opinion polls have shown that AAP and Congress will probably win most of the seats but things can still change. That said, if Punjab votes in another five years of Akali rule it will be truly shocking, weird and plainly put, fuckin’ stupid.