“BJP people are advised not to trouble us by ringing the door bell,” reads an advisory at the gate of a house in Punjab amidst the protest of farmers.
Banners, posters and advisories expressing anger against the saffron party over the contentious Central farm laws have become common across the state during the local body polls slated for February 14.
Political observers say these polls just a year ahead of the assembly elections is a ‘semi-final’ for the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government that is eyeing to repeat its government against the backdrop of the farm laws that has generate a wave of anger against the BJP.
For the BJP it will be a double whammy, while for the other political parties — the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), an observer told IANS.
“The BJP is fighting on two fronts: First, countering the anger, largely among all communities, for adopting stubborn and arrogant attitude towards the agricultural laws. And second, it is contesting the polls for the first time in two decades without the Akalis, the oldest NDA ally,” he said.
“The anger against the state BJP leaders is not only among the farmers but also the common man,” he added.
This reflected from the fact that the BJP has fielded just 670 candidates against 2,302 wards, meaning it is not contesting on 71 per cent seats. Also many BJP leaders prefer to contest as an Independent.
In total, there are 9,222 candidates in the fray for the polls to eight Municipal Corporations and 109 Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats.
For the first time, 50 per cent of the seats have been reserved for the women.
State BJP chief Ashwani Sharma, whose vehicle was attacked when he came in connection with the campaigning in the border town of Ferozepur, accused the state government of “murdering democracy” with officials “behaving like puppets of the Chief Minister”.
This is for the first time that candidates and leaders of a national party are not being allowed to campaign or even hold public meetings, Sharma told IANS.
For the Congress, this election is a test of its four-year performance-based report card.
With several of its legislators, MPs and ministers are campaigning aggressively, the Congress is mainly focusing on development issue, besides its solid stand for the cause of farmers by promising to again introduce amendment Bills to negate the ‘draconian’ farm laws in the Vidhan Sabha since the Governor had failed to send the earlier bills to President Ram Nath Kovind.
Already, the ruling party has an edge ahead of the polling with its candidates having been elected unopposed at several places.
For the Akali Dal, which was previously banking on its former ally the BJP for the urban Hindu voters, it is a ‘do-or-die’ battle.
Party President Sukhbir Badal, who is now a Member of Parliament, is eyeing to regain its lost ground ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.
He’s campaigning aggressively in these polls with saying his wife, Harsimrat Kaur, pulled out of the Union Cabinet to protest against the farm Bills, which later became law.
Saying party is not buckling under the pressure of politics and calling the farm laws as ‘black laws’, Badal is wooing the voters by saying, “It could not be a party to a government or alliance that stands opposed to the farmers, farm labourers, arhtiyas and the poor”.
AAP, which finished second in the 2017 assembly elections by winning 20 out of 117 seats, is campaigning aggressively for its maiden contest in the local body polls.
Its leadership, comprising Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, campaigned, urging the voters to give them a chance to form the next government in Punjab for implementation of welfare schemes like that in Delhi.
Scorning the Aam Aadmi Party’s ambition to rule the state as a ‘pipe-dream’, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said it is ridiculous that a party that is totally faceless in Punjab should talk of having a grand Chief Minister face in the 2022 Assembly elections.
“With just a year to go for the Assembly polls, AAP could not find a face from Punjab to campaign in the municipal elections and had to drag in non-entities from Delhi for electioneering! And now they claim they’ll find a CM face that will be the pride of Punjab?” said Amarinder Singh on Friday, the last day of campaigning.
“What can a party which sold off the farmers’ interests by implementing one of the farm laws in Delhi back in November know of Punjab’s ‘aan, baan and shaan,” the Chief Minister asked, adding that AAP neither knows nor cares what Punjabiyat is all about.
The counting of ballots on February 17 will either send the alarm bells ringing to the BJP headquarters or the BJP candidates will be in a position by the next assembly polls to start ringing the door bells again the way the farmers’ protest has been handled.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)