The political space available in Punjab today after the decimation of conventional parties in the 2022 Assembly elections has activated many other political organizations that earlier had little or no presence in the state.
Apart from the newly established Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), those trying to fill the space are mainly the BJP, the BSP, and Bibi Jagir Kaur’s Shiromani Akali Panth (SAP). The most serious and aggressive contender in the race is the BJP which is focusing to woo the Sikhs for the coming 2024 General Elections. Hordes of Sikhs are joining BJP as they appear to be enamored by the special treatment PM Narendra Modi is giving to the community.
As the BSP has an alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Badal, its efforts would be seen as a part of the two-party effort to cover the lost space. Bibi’s SAP, as of now, is claiming to be only a social organization wanting to win the SGPC elections only. But insiders reveal that ultimately Bibi plans to take her share of the vacant political space available in Punjab.
Political observers are of the view that to win over the Sikhs, the BJP needs to address some of their core issues like the river waters dispute, the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab, and punish those responsible for the massacre of the Sikhs in 1984, besides restoring of old quota for recruitment of the Sikhs to the military.
The BJP also needs to consider whether greater autonomy for Punjab and other states would be an effective step to curb terrorism. The demand for autonomy was stoked and exploited by vested political players and spiraled out of control culminating in terrorism. It has been years since the Sarkaria Commission made its recommendations for autonomy to states but the report seems to have been buried somewhere. Terrorism is in no way justified and Punjab, going by history, fought terrorism of Muslim rulers and invaders.
It seems imperative for those wanting to occupy available political space in Punjab that fighting the drug menace, taking a toll on youths, be on their priority list. A parity between neighboring states in the allocation of central funds and other issues is brought about. For instance, Himachal does not allow outsiders to buy land while Punjab welcomes one and all. And it is the BJP that rules at the centre that can address these issues which would help it to be a major stakeholder in the state’s politics.
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.