It?s all about atta-dal and Amarinder-Badal in Punjab | india | Hindustan Times
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It?s all about atta-dal and Amarinder-Badal in Punjab

For the first time in the political history of the state credited with the green revolution, atta-dal is a poll issue, reports Raveen Thukral.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 14:17 IST

Politics in Punjab has undergone a sea change. A state where elections  were earlier fought on the issue of Sikh identity, 1984 riots, operation  bluestar, Anandpur Sahib resolution and the contentious territorial disputes is  now talking about atta-dal and development.

Ironically, for the first time in the political history of the state,  credited with the green revolution and making the country self reliant in food,  atta-dal is a poll issue.  The main  political rivals, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), are vying with  each other with promises of cheap atta-dal.

In response to the SAD slogan of atta-dal for Rs 4 and Rs 20 per kg, the  Congress has promised it at half the rates, albeit for the poorest of the poor  (antyodya families) and has gone to the extent of redefining poverty in the  state by urging the center to redefine norms of BPL families in progressive  states like Punjab. If implemented, the Congress hopes to reach out to 12 lakh  families against the present 4.6 lakh.

And thanks to the Congress making development as its poll plank,  competitive religiosity that used to be the hallmark of Punjab polity ever since  late 70s has given way to one-upmanship in promises of development. If it’s the  Congress promising to make Punjab power surplus by 2012, the Akalis are talking  about 24 hrs uninterrupted electricity supply within three years. And if the  Congress is promising to create 20 lakh jobs by getting investments to the tune  of Rs 2 lakh crores, the Akalis are matching it with the assurance of setting up  a separate ministry for youth to resolve the problem of unemployment. 

While one would have to wait and see for what finally happens and how  many of these promises kept, the change in the agenda of the political parties  is certainly a good sign. “Yes the change is for the better as political parties  have for the first time set their eyes on the poor and accepted that poverty is  an issue,” says Pramod Kumar Director of the Institute of Development and  Communications (IDC).

Ditto says former Director General of Punjab Police KPS Gill, who has  witnessed Punjab in the worst days, when people were killed in the name of  religion and divisive ideology ruled the roost. "ever in Punjab’s history  development has been an issue,” he says adding that it’s a welcome and a  positive change.

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is quick to claim the credit for  this change. “We have set a positive agenda. The Akalis are no longer raising  religious and emotive slogans and the bogie of ‘panth nu khatra’ but chanting  the mantra of development”, he says. Besides his government’s policies he  credits Dr Manmohan Singh’s elevation to the top slot as one of the main reasons  for this change. “With a Sikh PM, a Sikh army chief and Sikh deputy chairman of  the planning commission how can Akalis or anyone else accuse the Congress for  being anti-Sikhs,” he says.

Notwithstanding these positive developments, politics in Punjab continues  to be personalized and personality based. Though its Congress Vs Akali-BJP  combine, its all about Amarinder and Parkash Singh Badal. The bitter relations  between the two, a result of Congress’ pursuit of the Akali corruption that led  to Badal and his son landing in jail for the 10 days, have turned for the worse  and anyone scanning the media ads in Punjab papers would know. These is nothing  below the belt in these ads as both the parties through their surrogate fronts  have unashamedly stooped to levels unknown in Punjab’s polity earlier. 

Being the tallest Akali leader and the president of a regional party, its  only natural that the Akali politics would revolve around Badal. But they way  Amarinder has emerged as the main face for the Congress is worth a notice. His  aggressive style of politics, witnessed in decisions like taking Badal headon  and abrogating water sharing agreements with neighbouring states to end the SYL  issue that put him in docks vis-à-vis his own embarrassed party high command,  and personal charisma have helped him overshadow other state Congress leaders. 

So in a nutshell the ensuing elections in Punjab would be fought at three  levels - atta-dal, Amarinder-Badal and development.

Email Raveen Thukral: rthukral@hindustantimes.com