THOUGH some may take former Punjab Chief Minister and senior Sikh leader Captain Amarinder Singh’s joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and merging his Punjab Lok Congress with the party as only a formality, the political importance of the development can never be underestimated. It should be treated as the most significant political development in Punjab after the recent legislative elections that catapulted the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to power. By every definition, this shift has authenticated a stronger unity between the Sikh and Hindu communities than ever before.
The electoral implications of the merger of the Punjab Lok Congress into the BJP may be seen only later. But what makes this development special is that Captain Amarinder Singh will strengthen the BJP in a big way. For, so far, the BJP has been major political voice in Punjab with relatively smaller actual presence. With Capt Amarinder Singh in its folds, the BJP would now become a stronger organisation with a happy and healthy mix of communities in its folds.
This development also has another dimension -- whose implication can be understood in the light of some happenings in some parts of the world -- like what is being described as Sikh Referendum that took place in Canada. In that referendum, the Sikh community in that part of Canada voted for or against the concept of Khalistan as a separate state with its capital at Shimla. That was certainly an unwelcome development with long-term implications on India. For, the ghost of Khalistan keep raising its head every now and then in different ways and creates headache for the Government of India and the country. India has officially held Khalistan as an anti-national activity aimed at creating internal divide. Each time the Khalistan issue raises its head, India has had to suffer some consequences.
Now that Captain Amarinder Singh has joined the BJP, his presence at a right place will make a clear statement in favour of nationalism as against separatism. For, Captain Amarinjder Singh represents the strongest nationalistic Sikh voice in the country and will sway the Sikh opinion away from Khalistan. This potential of the former Punjab Chief Minister is of immense political significance particularly when the ruling AAP is known to have favoured some pro-Khalistan thinking.
Captain Amarinder Singh might have played some role in helping the long-drawn farmers’ agitation initially. But as he realised that some anti-national strains were visible in the agitation, he moved away from it and initiated his gradual shift to the other side, that is the BJP. In the last legislative elections, the alliance of the BJP and the Punjab Lok Congress could not make much impact, all right. Yet, the alliance did make a statement in favour of a united front -- which the voters did not miss. In the coming electoral battles, the unity factor will have a greater impact.
Being a border State, Punjab has always been critical to national security. Those concerns were handled terribly badly by the Congress Government after the exit of Captain Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister, so much that even Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s motorcade was abruptly stopped on a bridge not far from the international border with Pakistan. Instead of accepting its blunder and rectifying it at the earliest, the Congress party resorted to senseless advocacy of the wrong. That was one of the factors that caused the Congress party’s cheap exit from power after the legislative elections. That was the lesson the voters taught to the Congress party. And, in the absence of other more credible alternative, they opted for the Aam Aadmi Party, Though the AAP leaders would drum that as its positive victory in the elections, it cannot be denied that some observers also took the change at the helm as an outcome of a situation in which there was no other strong claimant to power.
Now that Captain Amarinder Singh has reached his new home and will lend his political experience and social weight in BJP’s favour, Punjab politics will change rapidly. The new development will apply brakes on the Khalistan agitation as well. And that is the turn of events the nation is waiting for.