For many days now, the dissension-wracked Punjab Congress has been waiting for an opportunity to showcase that all is well within the party. The violence in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district seems to have given the party a handle to get all disgruntled leaders back on board.
On Thursday, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is yet to officially retract his resignation, and chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who is yet to cancel key government appointments that have angered the party’s state unit chief, appeared together in Mohali, beginning a march towards Lakhimpur Kheri to protest against the killing of farmers who were allegedly crushed by a car belonging to a union minister’s son. Sidhu and others later marched towards UP and were detained at the border.
Though the epicentre of the current farmer anger seems to be far away from Punjab, its ripples are being felt right here. All political parties from the state are trying to ensure that they are seen doing something to seek justice for the farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.
The road to Punjab politics for the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for now seems to go through Lakhimpur Kheri. Sidhu, who had submitted his resignation after objecting to some appointments made by chief minister Channi, is now actively trying to galvanise the cadre.
Though initially Channi and Sidhu did not appear to be on the same page over the issue, with both submitting memorandums to the governor on the matter separately, now with the politics over the violence reaching fever pitch, everyone seems to be working in concert.
Observers say that with four Sikh farmers killed in the tragedy, it was bound to turn into a huge issue in Punjab and it would further affect the BJP’s fortunes in the state where assembly polls will take place early next year.
The SAD too has decided to send a delegation to Lakhimpur Kheri and AAP has already met family members of the victims.