Punjab’s Self-Harming ‘Silos’ Notification Takes Wind Out Of Sales Of Kejriwal’s Arrest Hulabaloo

by Rajinder Singh Taggar

The Punjab government’s controversial notification on ‘Silos’ is overshadowing the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, which otherwise was expected to reverberate in the political cauldron of Punjab.

Farmers’ organisations claim the Bhagwant Mann government’s self-harm notification would lead to the closure of about 500 regular ‘Anaj Mandis’ run by the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Board (Mandi Board). An estimated 65 per cent of eligible voters in Punjab hail from rural areas and are somehow connected to farming.

Political observers, till recently, maintained that Kejriwal’s arrest would have varied impact on the fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Congress, and, lastly, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) but the ‘Silos’ issue seems to have taken the wind out the sails.

AAP’s propaganda machinery has been busy managing Delhi media to generate a sympathy wave after Kejriwal’s arrest, especially on the YouTube and Facebook news channels. Still, in Punjab, reporters focus more on the agitating farmers who have yet to respond to the coming general elections.

Two sections of the divided farmers’ organisations, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM, non-political), came out strongly against the Bhagwant Mann government’s notification which declared sixteen Silos owned by the Adani group as open markets. The SKM leader Balbir Singh Rajewal and SKM (non-political) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal announced the launch of the ‘rail roko’ programme beside the gherao of ministers from March 7 onwards. Quickly, the government came to its knees and withdrew the notification.

Naturally, the state unit of the BJP avoided talking about the Silos issue, given the national policy of the union government. The party’s local unit is working overtime to induct leaders from the Congress and AAP into its ever-increasing fold in Punjab. Ravneet Bittu, Congress Member of Parliament and Sushil K Rinku, AAP Member of Parliament, switched their loyalties to the BJP. BJP fielded both from Ludhiana and Jalandhar, respectively.

The SAD leadership is conspicuous by its silence on Kejriwal’s arrest, perhaps due to a lingering hope of an alliance with the BJP after the election. However, BJP’s national president, JP Nadha, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have gone on record denying any possibility of an alliance with the SAD. One of the factors leading to the failure of the partnership between the two parties was SAD’s demand to lodge Dibrugarh detainees in a Punjab jail or a jail near Punjab.

The Congress’s local leadership spoke against the BJP, but only on freezing the party bank accounts by the Income Tax Department, not Kejriwal’s arrest. The state unit of Congress seems to have been handicapped by the Mann government’s anti-corruption drive, which resulted in the arrest of several former Captain Amarinder Singh government ministers, notwithstanding AAP’s joining the INDIA league at the national level.

In Kejriwal’s absence, Bhagwant Mann attended the Delhi conclave of INDIA, with Rahul Gandhi holding his hand. The event’s media coverage created speculation about a possible seat-sharing alliance between the Congress and AAP for the forthcoming elections. If the speculation turns into reality, observers feel, it would adversely affect the prospects of the BJP in Punjab. Nevertheless, Congress MP Manish Tiwari’s exit to join the BJP is also in the air, but no confirmation is available.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.

Rajinder Singh Taggar

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