After the Maghi mela show in Muktsar in January, Wednesday’s Baisakhi fair at Talwandi Sabo will be another religio-political stage for all three contenders for power in Punjab to test their might, at varying levels.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which apparently stole the show at Maghi, will have to show that it can pull crowds despite the absence of national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Also, given that it has been struggling on some issues — such as the Delhi government’s flip-flop on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — the party would have to counter the analysis that it had ‘peaked too early’.
For the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it would be a challenge to find youth-centric issues, besides inter-state water-sharing and its recent AAP-bashing over demolition of a ‘piao’ (water kiosk) outside Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Delhi. Punjab deputy CM and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal did betray his emotions recently when he urged party workers to get people to “take a vow” that they would attend the Akali rally if they were brought to the venue by the party. It was seen as a lesson from Maghi when people either walked to other parties’ rallies or preferred paying obeisance at the gurdwara over listening to political speeches.
For the Congress, this would be another occasion to project its state chief Captain Amarinder Singh, who has not shied away from Panthic issues that can hold centrestage at the fair. Also, in light of recent expulsion of senior leaders Jagmeet Brar and Bir Devinder Singh, it would be pertinent for it to present a united face behind Amarinder since strategist Prashant Kishor is pitching the 2017 assembly polls as a personality contest.