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Ballot and bullet

Amritsar incident has not only left everyone shocked, says Khushwant Singh, but also thrown open a challenge as to what this means for the people of Punjab.

chandigarh Updated: Dec 18, 2012 16:36 IST
Khushwant Singh

Each time I have tried to dig out a positive story from Punjab, some goof has taken place and rattled my sentiment. This time, it is the incident in Amritsar where a senior office-bearer of the ruling party shot dead a police officer, who, in his capacity as a father, was just trying to protect his daughter from eve-teasers since the law-enforcing force he belonged to refused to come to his aid.

The incident has not only left everyone shocked and in despair, but thrown open a challenge as to what this incident means for the people of Punjab? It has put to shame the other omissions of wannabe politicians, like rushing through toll booth lanes without paying toll tax, beacon-light abuse, drug peddling, brawls etc.

Though, the murder can be easily scoffed off as a one-off event, a coincidence that the guy who shot the ASI was from the ruling party, but the cynics like me will always think the worst. Hang me if I’m wrong when I say, the chap who allegedly committed the crime was emboldened by his recent enrolment in the ruling party cadres.

Ranjit Singh Rana, the main accused, was jolly well under the impression that for decades two laws have worked in Punjab–one for the party in power and one for the common man. Haven’t we all witnessed this in the DC, SSP offices where even the most ‘tutta-bhaja’ leaders of political parties get preference even over serving senior army officers?

Backing the cadre undoubtedly is a necessary evil in power politics, and every political party has to play ball. But sending a signal, ‘do what you may’, is not in the interest of anyone. Not even the ruling party, as Shiromani Akali Dal finds out for itself.

So what is the path forward? Even though the government has taken corrective measures and gone into a damage-control exercise with condemnations, dismissals, suspensions and appointments, the problem appears to be more acute.

It is nothing short of cancer, the most carcinogenic substance being the politician. Correct me if I am wrong when I say that it is the politician who posts officers who are willing to go that extra mile to please him. In other words, it works like a signal to the cadre to do whatever since ‘apna banda’ has been posted. The result is an obvious chaos, a Frankenstein being created at both the ends. So, can Sukhbir Badal, as president of the Akali Dal and home minister of the state, stem this rot since it needs a political and an administrative overhaul?

I don’t have the answer, but perhaps it is time for him to transcend from just being the best poll manager in the country to a statesman and take Punjab forward.

Amongst all the kin of Punjab’s political leaders, Sukhbir Badal is the only one who has successfully converted his political inheritance into a substantive force. He no longer remains the Kakaji, but has emerged as...! The dots have been put deliberately, for it is up to him what he wants to make of the opportunity that he has.

I don’t know Sukhbir Badal on a personal level, but his close friends and even his political adversaries tell me that he has it in him. Unleash your potential Mr Badal Jr, for Punjab needs a sincere effort and presently the steering is in your hand.

Punjabi by nature is a fortnightly column.The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist.

The writer can be reached at