Punjab Elections 2017 —My take

On Saturday, February 4, 2017, Punjab electors voted to elect their State Assembly. According to the office of Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, 1145 candidates belonging to 53 parties and several standing as Independent were in the fray with no second prizes available for grabs. Several of the independent candidates and smaller parties are best when called bogey entities. They are put up by wealthy candidates or parties with means to ensure they have several people from their ranks inside the polling booth—Ugh, the good old intimidation tactic at booth capturing while others have vote banks and try their luck at being vote-contractors of sorts. These vote-contractors have taken hold of voter I-cards and get imposters to vote for a daily wages and plus.
Cover Photo: In conversation with AAP supporters at my village, Saidpur, Sultanpur Lodhi, Punjab, on February 4, 2017, before I cast my vote. My village blessed me with over 58% votes in 2014 Parliamentary elections. 
Party Dynamics Indian National Congress’s Punjab Pardesh Congress camp is the one that most impressed me in these elections. While the Aam Aadmi Party, and I am still a suspended entity, continued to shred itself as I had anticipated, and even warned. Shiromani Akali Dal, even if they had allegedly the chance to usurp state resources the most and offer positions, perks, freebies and anticipatorily rig positions that were expected to influence the outcome of elections, were burdened by the overconfident and braggadocios demeanour of its party president Sukhbir Singh Badal. Sukhbir had the financial resources to hire the finest of election managers and engineers but then these hired hands could only manage the election campaign not alter his mindset, or even conduct. Aam Aadmi Party, unlike the INC and SAD-BJP alliances, depended on its most trusted hands that have given them a few extraordinary victories in the recent years —wins that have carried the imagination of its friends, foes and politick watchers alike. Congress, I must add seemed to have made the least mistakes with its strategists seemingly choosing to be in the slipstream of the other two aggressively battling with each other up close ahead. Their camp would surely be a very satisfied —a content one, of all those in the fray.
SAD President Sukhbir Badal has sought support of Dera Saccha Sauda supremo, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan. This seems to have been to compensate for the loss of Panthic vote due to Bargari incidents as well as the illegal attack on Anad Conservatory at Qila Sarai, Sultanpur Lodhi, which is the only project in the world engaged exclusively at the revival of tangible and intangible heritage combined. This is a smart move by him and his strategists as they have nothing more “Sikh” to lose than they have already done and have everything to gain. This will perhaps ensure they will not be totally decimated in the state. The writing is on the wall that they are going to lose but it will need to be seen by how much. SAD hypocrisy also came to the fore, as if it needed to, when they accused AAP of taking support of Panthic factors and factions. As long as the “separatists” side with SAD or Congress, we the people are asked to pat their backs respectively for they brought the dissident factors into the political (non-violent) mainstream. But when the Panthic factions decided to go for the third option, AAP suddenly became anti-national? How ridiculous can it get! A pity though, that AAP strategists hadn’t a tactic to counter with —for sure, they weren’t yet introduced to nor versed with Punjab’s complex dynamic. But then, we will have to live with the reality on ground and all of these and more will have had an effect on the minds and hearts of Punjab electors when they voted on February 4, 2017.
January 24, 2017
ਝਾੜੂ ਬਣਾਓਣੇ ਦੀ ਜਾਂਚ ਜੇ ਹੁੰਦੀ
ਵਰਤਣੇ ਵਰਤਾਓਣੇ ਦਾ ਚੱਜ ਜੇ ਹੁੰਦਾ
ਭਲਾ ਹੁੰਦਾ!
ਬਾਤਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਹੀਂ ਭਲਿਓ
ਸਫਾਈ ਹੁੰਦੀ
ਫੋਕੇ ਦਾਵੇਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਹਰਿਆਈ
ਨਾਂ ਭਲਾਈ ਹੁੰਦੀ!

Arvind Kejriwal and Bhai Baldeep Singh together after 22 months on February 1, 2017.
AAP —Miracle or Debacle? Apart from the fact that it continually lost quality cadre due to inept handling of party affairs in Punjab, AAP seems to have been handicapped due to funding crunch. Unable to match the treasury chest of SAD-BJP combine and INC who also had solid corporate backing, they had to settle down towards choosing candidates who could fund their own elections and perhaps even spare a paisa or two for important candidates albeit with humble means. Quality obviously suffered and if they actually win the assembly elections and with a thin margin, there will always be a risk of horse trading and adventurism by rowdy opposition, and even to blackmail from within its ranks. It is important they learn that having the ability to win elections is one thing, gaining the ability to govern well is another. Manifestos and To-Do lists are not the way to promise deliverance. In the midst of political noise and bickering, there were some leaders and volunteers who had dedicatedly worked for the betterment of Punjab and upliftment of Punjabis. These were out of the ordinary leaders and their services should have been taken by the party leaders. The people who took charge one after another as observers only met ambitious Punjabis without actually having met Punjab nor were they desirous of being introduced to idea of Punjabiat. It was important to carefully discern between people who had personal ambitions versus who were ambitious for the betterment of Punjab, who knew how to build its organisation and who had earned the capacity to usher in real change. The SYL issue also was successfully raked by AAP’s opposition and the party supremo, Arvind Kejriwal, was seen to be a little too defensive when responding to scathing interrogation by hostile media. Similarly, excessive caution with regards to the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee elections ensured that Shiromani Akali Dal, led by a confident Manjit Singh GK, won a second consecutive term.
AAP also did several own goals in the lead up to the 2017 Punjab Assembly elections. Beginning with thwarting my humble attempts to keeps the corrupt and sycophants out of AAP Punjab’s core in 2014, AAP’s internal rifts of 2014 in its PAC were beginning to hurt. I had witnessed a lot of distrust and sly manoeuvrings happening amongst the party leaders which led to the destruction of the party’s democratic-socialist core which originally gave birth to the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. Prashant Bhushan had serious reservation in the lead up to the 2015 Delhi assembly elections when several tickets were granted to the people with questionable backgrounds who were clearly entrenched deep in the corrupt world. He was about to resign but was prevented from doing so for the party would have suffered a severe loss of credibility and more. Sadly, immediately after the elections which were clearly won by the collective and not by one faction of the party, some of the most precious founding members were unceremoniously kicked out of the party. I was the first one to protest on March 3, 2015, but then on March 28, 2015, Member of Parliament from Patiala, Dr. Dharamvera Dv Gandhi, also stood up to protest the uncivil treatment of several founding members. All of these developments were contrary to the art of consolidation that a party or an organisation must engage and keep itself busy with. I had warned the party leaders and volunteers, as early as the month of July of 2014, that several party leaders were engaging in anticipatory rigging. That the party will lose all credibility and charisma. People scoffed at my warnings and claimed that I did not understand politics. Well, after the departure of Sucha Singh Chotepur and scores of people who had invested their energy and resources with him, several party watchers called me to apologise for having doubted my take on the internal dynamics of AAP. They said that they had finally realised how “prophetic” my assessments and analysis had always been.
And then the Sidhu saga of 2016 is one of irony and disbelief. Sidhu moving on may prove to be a major blow as it was less of AAP benefiting but more of Congress’s gaining. Results will show. Sidhu has fielded himself from a relatively easy constituency previously held by his wife, but which is a smart move. Congress had its own star campaigner and joke-cracker-in-chief who has more than an ace or two over his counterparts in AAP. There was nothing to gain by humiliating the Sidhu couple.
February 8, 2017
To gain an opportunity to serve the people is one thing, to gain the ability to be able to serve the people and serve well is quite another!ਜਿੰਮੇਵਾਰੀ ਨਿਭੌਣ ਦਾ ਮੌਕਾ ਹਾਸਲ ਕਰਨ ਲੈਣਾ ਇੱਕ ਗੱਲ,
ਜਿੰਮੇਵਾਰੀ ਨਿਭਾਅ ਸਕਣ ਦੀ ਲਿਆਕਤ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤਨਾ ਕੁਝ ਹੋਰ ਗੱਲ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਏ!
Ground Reality, as if There are musicians who know not music; there are artists who know not art; there are Sikhs who know not Gursikhi; and there are politicians who know not politics. Our country is a land of Mandi’s or markets. Sadly, electors have been scandalised and have been reduced down to the level that they make themselves available for sale every time elections come calling. Aargh, them vote contractors galore. I would rather call it a purchasatory democracy than being a participatory democracy for the electors look at the manifestos and weigh which party will give more freebies. How I wish the elector were to look out for leaders who had ideas in making their electors participate as partners and stakeholders not only in decision making but in the realisation of projects. Punjab is having its NDE, literally, a near death experience. It needs people who will help it recover from the unfortunate abyss it currently finds itself in. Just about anyone can run a government, but to heal and pioneer an all-round recovery of Punjab, it will take a very special attendance from very special attendees.

Bhai Baldeep Singh in conversation with INC supporters of his village, Saidpur, Punjab.
It has been Punjab’s misfortune that all political parties that have won elections or have sat as opposition only engaged in cultural cosmetics and tokenism. They had no cultural vision whatsoever with the result that almost all of Punjab’s tangible and intangible heritage and assets therein are near extinct. Be its architectural or musical harvest or arts, crafts, dance forms, or languages, Punjab is in ruins. Lahore used to be the most important centre of learning Sanskrit for example, with Punjabi scholars and exegetical attendees adept at speaking Persian, Arabic, Punjab and Braj but ever-since the partition of 1947, it has been a downslide. The ruined land of scriptural harvests of several millenniums that are studied across the globe, its literary scene now, ironically lies in tatters.
January 28, 2017
Instead of voting party-centric, let's think of a dream candidate-centric Punjab Legislative Assembly with a potential to heal!
Lastly, I would like to share a few thoughts with regards to the dynamics at play in the elections this time. Unlike Delhi assembly elections of 2015, when the Congress cadre voted for AAP as they did not want BJP to win, BJP-Akali Dal cadre has been understood to have voted in favour of Congress. BJP wants to limit the spread of AAP —it is clear that they are wary of the threat posed by Arvind Kejriwal. Shiromani Akali Dal did lose a lot of its vote to AAP, especially the youngsters voted for AAP while their family elders tended to vote for SAD-BJP combine. Congress was successful not only in retaining its cadre but also in consolidating its rank and file. Then, there are two projects that I initiated in the last two years namely, Sarbat Khalsa 2015 and the Second Gurdwara Reform Movement or Gurdwara Sudhār Lehar. Although I had strongly disagreed with the way the whole Sarbat Khalsa initiative got mishandled and misappropriated for petty political gains and therefore refused to endorse the outcome, it is a fact that the Panthic vote got fractured straight down the middle so much so that we now have two sets of Takhat Jathedar’s. AAP clearly benefitted from these undercurrents. They can thank me for a possible spike in favourable Sikh votes!

Bhai Baldeep Singh with SAD supporters of his village on election day. He successfully got the warring factions to tone down their electoral rhetoric & animosities.
The mandate will be delivered in the next hours. Let us see who gains the right to govern. Whether the AAP is able to harness most or all of the passionate aggression that has clearly been brewing against the SAD-BJP combine or not remains to be seen. To rely on donations (of aggressive passion) by the people is not the best of options. Instead, to earn people’s affection is key by initiating a kind of a political discourse. I would expect the bigwigs to retain their domains including Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Badal, Capt. Amarinder Singh, even Bikramjit Singh Majithia for they know how to take care of their constituencies. Moreover, AAP’s overhyped tirade against Bikramjit Majithia across Punjab was a poor strategy for Punjab is bigger than Bikramjit and its (Punjab) problems deeper than mere drug addiction. I saw that people had become deaf to most of AAP’s rhetoric including that of Pūran Swarāj, or Inquilāb. Moreover, this is the first major election that AAP was fighting after its internal split that lead to several extraordinary activists, people-convincers, if I may, and thinkers including Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Professor Anand Kumar, Yogendra Yadav, Ajit Jha, Mayank Gandhi, Shazia Ilmi, Dharamvera Dv Gandhi, Harinder Singh Khalsa, and several others, partying ways with the AAP. Then there was me—whom the party bosses tried to humiliate just because I demanded that Punjabi’s build their party in Punjab, that Punjab’s party leaders, volunteers and donors are not treated shabbily as if they were mere Classes II-III-IV employees (of anyone) and that Punjabi leaders will not be puppets, nor proxies or surrogates. This election will also show the actual traction that AAP as it is, has, without the collective might. As I have argued for long, that AAP was the charisma of the collective, and certainly not the produce of any one individual.
January 17, 2017
Building robust organisations is one but appropriating public sentiment & turning established parties into family fiefdoms is quite another!
I pray that whosoever wins will be inspired to invite the finest Punjabi minds and hearts irrespective of party lines so they may converge to help guide the legislators to serve Punjab. This perhaps may be the only way that Punjab’s dignity and honour are responsibly restored.
List of Parties — 53 plus Independent candidates.
Although it is everyone’s right to form one, but I cannot really understand how can these many parties benefit Punjab in any way. Nevertheless, here is the count of parties dreaming for an electoral gain or more in Punjab Assembly Election 2017:
  1. AAAP Aam Aadmi Party
  2. BSP Bahujan Samaj Party
  3. SAD Shiromani Akali Dal
  4. BJP Bharatiya Janata Party
  5. INC Indian National Congress
  6. HSS Hindustan Shakti Sena
  7. APPA Aapna Punjab Party
  8. HUP Hindostan Utthan Party
  9. HINUP Hindustan Utthan Party
  10. CPI Communist Party Of India
  11. CPI(ML)(L) Communist Party Of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation)
  12. CPM Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  13. SAD(M) Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) (Simranjit Singh Mann)
  14. AITC All India Trinamool Congress
  15. BSP (A) Bahujan Samaj Party (Ambedkar)
  16. BMUP Bahujan Mukti Party
  17. RMPOI Revolutionary Marxist Party of India
  18. SHS Shivsena
  19. DPIN Democratic Party of India (Ambedkar)
  20. ABSD Akhil Bharatiya Sangharsh Dal
  21. SLDP Shiromani Lok Dal Party
  22. DCP Democratic Congress Party
  23. DEMSWP Democratic Swaraj Party
  24. RPI(A) Republican Party of India (A)
  25. NCP Nationalist Congress Party
  26. RKSP Rashtriya Krantikari Samajwadi Party
  27. LIP Lok Insaaf Party
  28. BRP Bharatiya Rashtravadi Paksha
  29. IKL Indian Krantikari Lehar
  30. DBSP Democratic Bharatiya Samaj Party
  31. KYP Krantikari Yuva Party
  32. HSS Hindustan Shakti Sena
  33. BRPP Bharatiya Republican Paksha
  34. DPI Democratic Party of India
  35. JJJKP Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Party
  36. RMPOI Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (Rasik Bhatt)
  37. BDPty Bharatiya Democratic Party
  38. SAPUNPA Sada Punjab Party
  39. HNP Hindusthan Nirman Dal
  40. IVD Inqalab Vikas Dal
  41. PDemP Punjab Democratic Party
  42. BIRK Bharat (Integrated) Rakshak Party
  43. SAKAP Samaj Adhikar Kalyan Party
  44. RSP Revolutionary Socialist Party
  45. JKNPP Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party
  46. BASD Bahujan Sangharsh Dal
  47. SWAP Swabhiman Party
  48. LPSP Lokpriya Samaj Party
  49. OP Ojaswi Party
  50. NAIP National Adhikar Insaaf Party
  51. IUML Indian Union Muslim League
  52. CPIM Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star
  53. BGTD Bharatiya Gaon Taj Dal
  54. IND Independent

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