A second innings for Amarinder Singh in Punjab
By Jaideep Sarin
Amarinder Singh, who assumed charge of Punjab as Chief Minister on Thursday for a second time, wears many hats and has accomplished himself in most of them.
Better known as a politician from Punjab, Amarinder Singh has varied interests.
Coming from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, he is still addressed as ‘Maharaja’ in some circles.
Amarinder Singh had joined the Army in the 1960s and was a Captain. He has business interests and is an agriculturist and orchardist. Besides, he is an author, having written books on wars and Sikhs.
An alumnus of the Lawrence School-Sanawar (Kasauli Hills) and Doon School at Dehradun, Amarinder Singh has never hesitated in taking bold decisions in public and personal life.
Be it quitting as a Congress MP after being upset over “Operation Bluestar” of the Indian Army ordered by Indira Gandhi in 1984, even at the cost of affecting his personal relations with the Gandhi family; leaving the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1992 or more recently resigning his Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in November after a Supreme Court ruling on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal which was adverse to Punjab – Amarinder Singh has never been wary of taking a public stand on issues where the interests of home state Punjab or the Sikh community were involved.
Even on the personal front, Amarinder, 75, has not shied away from his relationship with his friend from Pakistan, Aroosa Alam, even when his opponents have tried to corner him on this.
Amarinder Singh remained Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007. After coming down heavily on corruption in the early part of his tenure, Amarinder Singh drew flak later as a coterie of people around him took grip of things in Punjab and he ended up on the wrong side as the Congress lost the assembly polls to the Akalis in 2007.
In the 2012 assembly polls, Amarinder Singh led the party to another defeat. Both he and the party had to be out of power in Punjab for a decade.
But the 2017 assembly elections brought luck to Amarinder Singh and the Congress.
Up against tougher competition from the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Amarinder Singh, who had announced last year that this assembly polls would be his last political battle, came out a winner not only in the state but also stopped the Congress’ losing streak in important states.
Having won the state despite the odds, Amarinder Singh is likely stamp his authority in his new government. A sample of that was seen in his ministry where cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was touted to be the Deputy Chief Minister and had the so-called blessings of the Congress high command, was inducted only as a cabinet minister, that too at the number three slot.
In his second innings in government, Amarinder Singh must prove himself all over again – having made big promises to the electorate like proving jobs to youth, waiving loans of farmers and eradicating drugs from Punjab.
With a BJP-led government at the centre, none of this is going to be easy for Amarinder Singh and his government.