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Punjab Pickle


The Aam Aadmi Party will find that it is easier to win the elections in Punjab but much harder to administer the state. The freebie culture practiced in Delhi, with inflated claims on performance, is possible because the major governance responsibilities are borne by the central government. A relatively healthy economy due to the traditionally strong commercial and industrial culture provides for ongoing expenses, but the long term signals are increasingly negative. It is only a matter of time before people wake up to the shortcomings of the AAP model of governance; so it has become all the more important for the party to spread its wings.

Punjab has been badly run for a long time now. This has led to the rise in what may be termed as the urban subaltern class. This section has few stakes in the system and is more inclined to hanker after short-term gains. This is what the AAP thrives on and could not find in Uttarakhand and Goa. This class brought the party to power but can contribute little to bringing stability in a greatly challenged atmosphere. The new Punjab government will be under pressure from day one on the security front. AAP has no experience in handling law and order, or generating revenues. Doubts have already been made on how it will pay for the election promises, such as providing Rs 1000, monthly, to every woman in the state. The state is heavily in debt and requires innovative economics and very upbeat indices to make ends meet. All the mocking it has done of central government initiatives over the years will now come home to roost.

Also, for how long will the AAP Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his legislators march to Arvind Kejriwal’s drumbeat, particularly as it has long been suggested that the latter wishes to shift to Punjab? There is no such thing as BJP style ‘cadre’ loyalty or Congress style adoration of the royal family for Kejriwal to bank on. The ‘subaltern’ mindset will be more than willing to jettison the Delhi leadership if it means being rid of ‘unnecessary’ constraints. The alleged involvement of Khalistani organisations and foreign agencies in AAP’s ascendance in the state is bound to be an added complication.

The BJP, as the ruling party at the Centre, will be torn between politically battling AAP and ensuring national interests. It, therefore, requires to continue its alliance with Captain Amarinder Singh so that the required balance may be maintained. There is no doubt, however, that Arvind Kejriwal will have his hands full in the days to come.