Now that Captain Amarinder Singh has finally decided to join the BJP, the Maharaja of Patiala is being labelled the best bet for the saffron party. The reasons are most obvious: the party didn’t yet have a Sikh face in the state; he is not only a popular face but also has experience of ruling Punjab for years; plus, on the agenda of nationalism and anti-terrorism, he has always echoed the sentiments of the BJP; last but not least, all the political rivals in the state, from the former NDA ally SAD to the ruling AAP (and now the Congress also), are Amarinder Singh’s sworn enemies.
Can Captain win Punjab again?
But the question remains: does he still have that political charisma left to pull off a victory for the BJP in Punjab? And the question seems substantial in the backdrop of the late assembly elections in the state, in which not only the captain’s party failed to win a single seat but the man in charge himself lost his Patiala bastion.
The political observers, however, refuse to write off Captain, who has seen various ups and downs in his political career: be it quitting Congress in 1984 protesting against Operation Blue Star, or then joining the SAD and winning a state election to become a minister in Punjab, or further quitting the SAD to form his own splinter group, which later merged with the Congress after he was defeated from his own constituency.
Army veteran won’t hang up his boots after rout
Yes, even in 1998 he had lost election from the Patiala seat and then left his past behind becoming the Chief Minister of Punjab, not once but twice: in 2002 and 2017.
Even though 80-year-old Singh may not have age on his side, he is determined to make a comeback and is not willing to end his political stint with the memory of a humiliating electoral defeat. Essentially, a former royal and an army veteran won’t hang up his boots after a beating.
BSY and Captain: Tale of two CMs and BJP fortunes
Age and experience are not the only common factors between B S Yeddyurappa and Amarinder Singh. From 2007 to 2021, BSY had four terms as the Karnataka Chief Minister (8 days, 3 years, 7 days and 2 years), but in between these years, in 2012, he not only resigned from the BJP – after Sadanand Gowda replaced him as the Chief Minister – but also floated his own party in Karnataka.
In the election that followed, he dealt a death blow to the BJP, securing 2.68% and bringing down the saffron party’s fortunes in the state, even though his party, Karnataka Janata Paksha, could not bag more than six seats. Both the BJP and BSY realised that they needed to remain together to keep nearly 17 per cent of Lingayat votes together and rule the state. A year later, a reconciliation plan between the BJP and BSY led to his return to the saffron party.
Eyes on 2024 elections, not Punjab polls now
In the case of Amarinder Singh, from what it appears now, a homecoming seems unlikely amid the tumult in the Congress and so, perhaps after thorough thought, he has decided to come to the BJP’s fold to ensure that the grand old party doesn’t return to power in the state in his lifetime. Rather, with a majority government in place in Punjab, the focus remains for both the BJP and Captain to deal a severe dent to the prospect of the Congress party in 2024 general elections.
With the former Chief Minister joining the party, the BJP believes it can showcase a formidable face in Punjab to galvanise the voters. Imagine, PM Modi and Captain Amarinder Singh campaigning for the BJP in 2024, and how it may impact the voters in the state. It will certainly increase the saffron party’s prospects as compared to what it can hope to achieve without the captain on board. The move will also offer the former Congress Chief Minister more teeth to inflict political harm on the grand old party. It’s a two-way service.