Amarinder Singh meets Amit Shah, sparking off rumours

Captain Amarinder Singh arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday, days after he quit as the chief minister of Punjab.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The turmoil within the Congress in Punjab washed up at the doorstep of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday with former Chief Minister of the State Capt. (Retd.) Amarinder Singh meeting Mr. Shah at his residence, setting off speculation that his next political destination could well be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The meeting between Mr. Shah and Mr. Singh lasted for 45-50 minutes, with the latter stating via his media advisor Raveen Thukral that he had “met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. Discussed prolonged farmers’ agitation against the farm laws and urged him to repeal of the laws and guarantee MSP (minimum support price), besides supporting Punjab in crop diversification”.

The statement did not mention any political arrangements that may have been discussed but does point to the sticking point in terms of any such arrangement between Mr. Singh and the BJP. The three farm laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — have been the subject of protests for the past 11 months, with Mr. Singh being one of the first Chief Ministers to fully back the agitation by farmers’ groups.

For him to come to a political arrangement with the BJP without some middle ground on how to tackle the issue is difficult and sources say that the BJP, which is quite keen for Mr. Singh to join its fold, is also mindful of the same. Leaders of the BJP have been facing protests in various districts in Punjab snd Haryana and are keen to find a way out of the imbroglio with regard to the farm laws.

Therefore, Mr. Singh’s travails and his resignation as Chief Minister of Punjab has come at a good time for the BJP, which is keen to diffuse the farmers’ stir and make a decent showing in Punjab. While firm on not withdrawing the laws, sources told The Hindu, many other means, including further amendments, or the setting up of a more expanded committee to sort out the issue, may be looked at, with Mr. Singh at the Centre of these efforts.

Moreover, the BJP is seen as a Hindu party in Punjab, and as the party that is pushing the farm laws; its old alliance with the Akali Dal broke on the question of these laws. For years, due to the alliance with the Akali Dal, the BJP was unable to cultivate any sort of Sikh leadership in its own party. The breaking of the alliance has meant that the BJP is free to do so now.

As for Mr. Singh, sources in his camp say he stands by what he said earlier, that his options are open, which could mean both joining the BJP or floating his own political party. His outing on Wednesday caused a stir and the question of his political future may be somewhat less of a cipher than it was a day ago.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 1:56:08 PM |

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