End of the road for Captain Amarinder?
Tuesdays' stunning defeat of the Congress may well mark the beginning of the end of an otherwise long and colourful political innings of Captain Amarinder Singh, the scion of the erstwhile Patiala royals.
His failure to bring back the party to power in Punjab, despite the state's record of sending the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress to the assembly alternatively, coupled with his indifferent health may well complete the rout for the raja of Patiala.
He had successfully led the party to victory in the 2002 assembly elections, and hoped that the doughty Punjabis would vote in keeping with the tradition of voting the incumbents out every election. But it proved to be one of his toughest electoral battles.
And in vain.
Now the road ahead for the royal, who was even named as the party's chief ministerial candidate in the run-up to the January 30 elections, in a deviation with the usual party stance, is full of thorns.
With no dearth of his detractors within the party, he may come under intense attack, while on the legal front the
SAD-BJP government will generate further heat in four serious corruption cases that Amarinder faces.
Though he is the politically the most popular leader of the Congress in the state, there have been murmurs of discontent against his laidback style of functioning.
The casual attitude shown by the local leadership of the party in the initial phase of the election is also being attributed to that. The murmurs of discontent are bound to getlouder henceforth.
Worse, Amarinder's son Raninder - against whose candidature Captain's brother Malvinder Singh had switched loyalties to the SAD - lost badly in a constituency (Samana) adjacent to the one (Patiala Urban) the Punjab Congress president represents.
Amarinder has already taken the blame for the defeat and offered to resign as the state unit chief. His survival will, however, depend on how Congress president Sonia Gandhi, with whom he enjoys a personal rapport, reacts to this defeat.