Only if birthday wishes could come true! A part of history will write itself when Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh turns 75 on Saturday and becomes the longest-living scion of the Patiala royalty. But the writer on military history is hoping to script the other part all by himself — signing off on a winning note in an election he has declared to be his last.
Since 2002, when Amarinder went on to become Punjab chief minister, this is party’s fourth election under his command. Having failed to return it to power in the last two polls, the stakes are up, close and personal for Amarinder as well as the Congress which is seeking to resurrect itself nationally by taking Punjab, the only state among the five where exit polls have given it an edge over its rivals.
In the final hours before counting on Saturday, there was no talk of celebrations. Hopeful of getting a clear majority, Amarinder was busy examining exit polls and dismissing those that predicted otherwise.
Betraying no anxiety, the former CM said he is an old hand in politics. “I am a former army Captain. Winning and losing is part of the game. But I have no doubt in my mind that we are winning. I am confident of getting between 62 and 65 seats. I do not agree with exit polls that are predicting a majority for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or a tie between them and us. They are only going by the satta bazaar which is betting on a close finish,” he told HT.
Party insiders also do not believe that the tally of the SAD-BJP will be reduced to a single digit.
Amarinder will be tracking the poll results from his private residence in Sector 10, Chandigarh, and address the media around noon. He would head home only if he wins. “I will go to Patiala by 3pm if I defeat JJ Singh (former army chief and SAD candidate) for signing the election papers as the winning candidate,” he added. His son, Raninder Singh, will be present in Lambi, where Captain has taken on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Jarnail Singh of the AAP.
KISHOR TO RETURN AFTER ‘VICTORY’
But as results start streaming in, Amarinder will not have party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor for company. Kishor’s team, Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), which had fashioned a campaign centred around him, will be watching the results from Lucknow. “We are planning to come down to Punjab on March 12 after the results,” Rishi Raj Singh, one of the directors and co-founders of IPAC, said. Though Kishor had concentrated his energies more on UP, Punjab remains his best hope of maintaining his winning streak.
Even if the Congress has planned to hold grand celebrations, it has decided to keep it under the wraps. Its over-confidence during last elections, when the party had even decided ministerial berths and officers in the CM’s office, had only added more embarrassment to the injury. On his plans for the D-day, Amarinder said all celebrations will have to wait till results are out.
Captain’s old friends such as Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, who threw a lavish Holi party despite a drubbing in 2012 elections, too are cautious. “We have not decided on the Holi celebrations. It will all depend on the poll results,” the MLA said. For now, the party’s hopes hinge on AAP being a spoiler for the SAD-BJP and yet not a winner. Will Amarinder have his cake and eat it too?