VENKATESH KESARI | 14 MARCH, 2017
NEW DELHI: The Congress party has returned to power in Punjab after ten years not due to the charismatic leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh or Rahul Gandhi-Prashant Kishor's planning but on the BJP vote.
This was confirmed by senior Congress MPs and a Union Minister close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact the Minister had spoken of this earlier, maintaining that in the face of the impending defeat of the Akali Dal, the BJP had decided to divert its votes to the Congress in the urban cities to prevent the growth of the Aam Aadmi party.
The BJP has been clear about the outcome of the Punjab polls much before the elections. Its strategists knew that the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine will not get a third term, not because of the anti- incumbency factor or Amarinder Singh's leadership but enitrely because of the new AAP factor in the state.
"We have to check the AAP at any cost" said the minister at least three months before the actual polls explaining how the Arvind Kejriwal led party is a threat to both the Congress and the BJP. An AAP victory in Punjab would have created problem for the two national parties in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh,Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh assembly polls in the coming months.
"We have no problem if Congress comes to power in Punjab.....our fight will continue but AAP is a greater threat." the Minister said.
After the polls,Prashant Kishor told the Congress high command that the Congress would get enough seats to form the government, giving a figure of about 62 seats as against the 59 required to form the government in Punjab. The Congress has secured 77 seats, in results that have surprised the Congress iparty to say the least.
An AAP victory in Punjab would have given new impetus to the party, that is looking to contest the Gujarat polls due next. It would have given it a base to operate from, and brought it on to the national political stage as a contender. The slideback, effected by a systematic push of votes to te Congress in the cities where the BJP has a hold, is to check the political ambitions of Kejriwal and the growth of his party in states where the fight is directly between the Congress and the BJP. As the sources said, the BJP does not see the Congress as a major threat now as it has managed to reduce the party’s presence across the country.
Interestingly, Amarinder Singh was given a rough time by the leadership in New Delhi even after the campaign had begun. The reluctance to announce him as the Chief Ministerial candidate was visible, as Singh was kept hanging for hours for an audience with Rahul Gandhi in the capital. His candidates too were cleared at the nth hour, with the decision to bring in cricketer and comedian Navjot Singh Sidhu into the Congress also carrying a ‘cut down Amarinder Singh to size’ message.