Apart from being unprecedented in terms of the political combinations in the fray, the February 20 Punjab assembly polls will also determine the political futures of many of the state’s bigwigs. This election, arguably, is a battle of survival for several prominent faces of Punjab, cutting across party lines.
For former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who filed his nomination papers from his stronghold Patiala on Monday, it is going to be a do-or-die battle for political survival. Following his ouster from the chief ministership after Navjot Singh Sidhu raised a banner of revolt, Captain had vowed to fight back. He will be hoping that his party, Punjab Lok Congress, manages to make a mark in the hustings. A poor show, when votes are counted on March 10, will virtually seal his political career. While he is fighting this election as a second fiddle to the BJP, at 79, he is confident that he still has the political gumption left in him to take on his political rivals.
At the other end of the political spectrum, 48-year-old Bhagwant Mann has the onerous task to prove his leadership mantle. Declared its chief ministerial face by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Mann’s trajectory in the party will rely heavily on whether he is able to lead it to victory. Any hiccups would be detrimental to his political career in the state, though age seems to be on his side.
For Bhagwant Mann, this is not only his but also probably his party’s best chance to take a shot at power with opinion polls indicating AAP is in the lead. If the party is able form a government in Punjab, it will have the opportunity to showcase the ‘Punjab model’ and not just one from a ‘half state’ like Delhi.
Congress’s Punjab unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has jumped ships, has been known to point fingers at his own government, present or past. Desperate to be showcased as the face of the party, it remains to be seen if he is ultimately projected as the CM pick of the Congress. Party vice president Rahul Gandhi had on his last visit assured the state unit that they would go into the elections with a CM face. If senior leaders of the party are to be believed then the chances are tilted in favour of present chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi. In this case, it remains to be seen what would be the further course of action for Sidhu.
For the Shiromani Akali Dal leaders, the party has hit rock bottom. How much it rises from here in this election is anyone’s guess.