Border tension pushes back politics in poll-bound Punjab

Chandigarh, Oct 2 Till Thursday last week, politics in Punjab was at its peak in poll-bound Punjab. The India-Pakistan tensions have for now deviated the political course in the border state.


In the past few months, all the talk in Punjab was political - on whether or not the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the newest challenger to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance and the opposition Congress, would pose a challenge to the traditional parties in assembly elections early next year.

However, with war-like tensions with Islamabad staring Punjab in the face, especially in the districts bordering Pakistan, politics has taken a backseat.

The increasing attacks on AAP by the Akali Dal-BJP and Congress, the talk of the launch of a fourth front, the future of former Rajya Sabha MP and ex-BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and other breakaway leaders as well as other political issues were pushed to the background as the war-mongering with Pakistan gained momentum.

The political leadership, which was leaving no opportunity in having a dig at one another till last week, are subdued in their political discourse owing to the India-Pakistan tension.

This was followed by Thursday's directions from the union home ministry to the Punjab government to get the 10-km belt along the 553-km long international border in Punjab with Pakistan evacuated.

The evacuation of over 400,000 people from the border belt in the six frontier districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur and Fazilka has erased everything else.

Even the launch of a new political party, Apna Punjab Party (APP) on Saturday by former AAP Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, remained a low-key affair in view of the border tensions.

Political leaders changed their discourse to link it to the border situation.

"The Akali Dal government has not made much arrangements to accommodate the evacuated villagers of border areas. The Punjab government is creating undue tension in the border districts. This could be an attempt to get the assembly elections postponed," Punjab AAP convener Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi said.

Congress leaders too accuse the Badal government of creating a scare.

"People in border areas were being harassed in the name of evacuation. The administration has failed to help people in the affected villages," Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh said.

"There is a need to instill confidence in people instead of spreading fear and panic," said the leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly, Charanjit Singh Channi.

The Punjab government maintains there was no panic due to the latest border developments.

"The brave people of Punjab's border belt are facing a lot of hardship due to the border tension. The country stands with them in this hour," Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said.

A total of 117 assembly seats in Punjab go for election in January-February next year.


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