Angry Majha talks about disenchantment with Akalis and Congress

With its centuries-old reputation for being vocal and aggressive, Majha’s electorate does not mince words when it comes to blaming Punjab’s two traditional political powerhouses of Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) for failing to hold their sounding promises repeatedly made. And it is precisely for this reason that the Aam Aadmi party seems to have gained a foothold in the region.

As elsewhere in Punjab, it remains to be seen whether the AAP manages to convert its connection to the electorate into actual votes and seats. In recent Assembly polls, the party had scored a big duck here.

Majha constituted the core of the undivided Punjab and its geographical extent lies between the Ravi and Beas rivers, deriving its name from the term ‘manjhla’ meaning the middle one. A distinct feature of this belt is the prevalence of high religious sentiment which is reflected in the politics of the Panth often read as the Sikh community.

With the holy city of Amritsar being its largest district and the location of the Akal Takht, often referred to as the Sikh parliament, it is panthic politics that dominates the political narrative in Manjha, which sends 25 legislators to the Punjab assembly .

But this time around, it’s the people’s real issues that outweigh the panthic narrative. This is another reason for the improved fortunes of the AAP, as the party is nowhere on panthic issues that have largely been the domain of the SAD and Congress outside of radical groups.

When it comes to the panthic issue of the desecration of sacred texts, both mainstream parties are in people’s crosshairs for failing to deliver and bring things to a logical conclusion. The Akalis had paid a heavy price for incidents of “sacrilege” in 2017 and this time it’s Congress facing the music.

Another issue was that of the dominant drug threat which found little prominence in the election campaign, as the two mainstream parties also failed on this front. The Aam Aadmi party did not quite go to town with the issue as it would then have to explain the apology offered by its national organizer Arvind Kejriwal to Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia over the issue after the latest polls. The current AAP chief ministerial candidate, Bhagwant Mann, had also resigned as head of the state unit over the issue of an apology and had to be reappointed later.

All it takes is a little scratching and the anger of the masses pours out. “We cannot wish the threat of drugs to disappear. How can this be a thing of the past when political elements are involved in all the racketeering? says a Tarn Taran rickshaw puller who earns his living on the roads of Amritsar.

People are very annoyed with Congress and the Akalis for not developing job opportunities in the area that would increase their incomes and the economy as a whole.

“People’s consumption power remains very weak here. There are no industries and not many service sectors here. Therefore, the net income remains very low,” said Pradeep Kumar, who returned to the city of Amritsar after working as a teacher in Badarpur in Delhi. He currently manages to make ends meet by having invested in an e-rickshaw.

People point to the threat of underemployment and say that young people are very depressed and frustrated that they cannot earn a living wage even if they manage to obtain higher or professional education qualifications. While those with land or other capital can always aim to send their children abroad, for the rest the situation is hopeless and worsening day by day.

The situation in the villages on the Pakistani border is even worse. “There is a shortage of good educational institutions. Worse is the health scenario as those with little or no resources struggle with diseases like cancer and kala peeliya (hepatitis C). Those with money can still get private health care, but the rest have to fend for themselves.

“These are the reasons people turn to the AAP because they have tried and tested the remaining two political forces many times over. I’ve always been an Akali supporter, but this time I’m tempted to try the newcomer,” said Taranjit Singh, who resides in a village near Khemkaran in Tarn Taran.

This is an area often referred to as the graveyard of Patton tanks belonging to the Pakistani army which were destroyed by Indian forces in the 1965 war. People here lament that although the place is prominently in histories of nationalism and patriotism, successive governments have done little to address their real concerns.

Incidentally, the most talked about battle of the 2022 Assembly polls is taking place in this part of Punjab, as Congress Head of State Navjot Singh Sidhu takes on Bikram Singh Majithia of the Akalis in a fierce battle in Amritsar ( Is). The contest took an interesting trajectory where Majithia, often referred to as ‘Majhe da Jarnail’ (General of Majha) by his followers, got a head start in the war of perception. When Sidhu challenged him to an electoral duel, he accepted. Later, when Sidhu asked her to give up her traditional fiefdom of Majitha as a second seat, Majithia also accepted this and sent his wife Ganieve Kaur instead. This left Sidhu stuck to his own campaign most of the time.

The Citizen witnessed Majithia’s show of force minutes before the campaign ended on Friday. It is clear from conversations with the local electorate that Sidhu faces a daunting task this time around. Voters here are annoyed by his “motorized antics” and his “overambitious” desire to be appointed chief minister of the state. Sources add that there is a large section within Congress standing in his way.

Yet people recognize that Sidhu remains a clean politician who is genuinely concerned about Punjab. This in itself reflects the irony of Punjab and the dominant political milieu.

“A pot of boiling water with no lid is remembered as he can’t stop blabbering. People are also annoyed by his absence from the constituency most of the time for the past five years,” said Hardeep Singh sitting outside a store on Batala Road after the end of the election campaign.

While Majithia and Sidhu campaigned hard, AAP candidate Dr Jeevan Jyot Kaur connected with the electorate through a low-key but wide-ranging campaign that saw her supporters move from door to door. door to look for votes. A good performance on his part cannot be ruled out either.

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