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11 months and no full time governor for Punjab

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Chandigarh: It’s been nearly 11 months, but the Narendra Modi government has not been able to find a regular governor for Punjab.

Punjab’s last full-time governor, Shivraj Patil, had relinquished charge on January 21 and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki assumed additional charge the next day. Solanki, a hardcore RSS man, was appointed the Haryana governor in July 2014 after the Modi government took over. His appointment came just over two months before the crucial assembly polls in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triumphed in the October 2014 polls and formed its first government in the state. The Modi government, which had appointed several new governors after coming to power, has not been able to find a suitable person for Punjab governor. The post is important not only because Punjab is a frontier state but also because the governor is also the administrator of the union territory (UT) of Chandigarh, a post in which the incumbent enjoys vast powers. Chandigarh enjoys the unique status of being a UT and also the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

“It is strange that the Modi government has not been able to find a regular governor for the state. Punjab and Haryana have several disputes over river waters, territory and other issues. Both states also have issues regarding Chandigarh. Having the same man as constitutional head of both states for a longer time can lead to odd situations in governance,” a senior Punjab bureaucrat, who once served with a Punjab governor, told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

After Patil’s tenure ended, names of senior BJP leaders like Vijay Kumar Malhotra, union minister Najma Heptulla and others were doing rounds for the post.

Punjab has a Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government since 2007. The alliance is in its second term (2012 onwards) in the state.

Assembly elections in Punjab are likely in February-March 2017 and political activity has already picked up in the run-up to that. The two major political forces, the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress, are getting a tough challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in the April-May 2014 general elections.

Patil, a former union home minister, was not asked to resign nor was he sacked by the Modi government after it came to power. Several other governors, who had been appointed by the previous Congress-led UPA government at the centre, were either asked to quit or were dismissed.

Patil, whose tenure remained largely non-controversial but lacklustre, especially in the context of Chandigarh, was allowed to complete his five-year tenure. He had assumed office on January 22, 2010.(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)