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Did Congress commit a blunder by side-lining Captain Amarinder Singh?

All the opinion polls have been released and we now wait for the exit polls after the last phase of polling on March 7, 2022. However, there is much to introspect for the Congress in Punjab, especially related to the infighting triggered by the unsavoury resignation of Captain Amarinder Singh from the post of the chief minister as well as from the party. The manner in which he was speaking, “deposed and exiled” could cost the Congress very dearly, especially if results on March 10 reveal that the Congress has lost the state. No forecast is always accurate, but a plethora of polls conducted by various agencies seem to point towards a Congress defeat.

Oddly enough, the Punjab Congress state head Navjot Singh Sidhu, who started the critical fight within the Congress rank and file to upstage Captain Amarinder Singh, is now considered to be out of the power equation altogether. Chief Minister Charanjit Channi had to be roped in as a stop gap arrangement initially and later declared as official Congress CM candidate for the elections. And jury is still out if Congress leadership blundered in picking sides with Sidhu to start with.

In the CVoter IANS tracker last month the respondents were asked the direct question: Who is a better leader: Captain Amarinder Singh or the man who led the revolt against the Captain: Navjot Singh Sidhu? Overall, 37.1 per cent of the voters of Punjab preferred Amarinder Singh, more than 11 per cent above the 26.7 per cent who opted for Sidhu. The preference gap was especially wide in the Hindu community with 48.8 per cent preferring Amarinder Singh while just 17.5 per cent opted for Sidhu.

In all the talk about the Jat and the Dalit Sikh vote, analysts often forget that as per the 2011 Census, Hindus constitute more than 38 per cent of the population of Punjab. This is seen to be having an impact even on Congress supporters. Among traditional Congress voters, a clear majority of 35 per cent said Amarinder Singh is a better leader even after his exit from the party while only 23 per cent said Sidhu was a better leader. The Captain’s equation with Hindu voters is testified by the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where despite a Narendra Modi wave, the captain defeated the late Arun Jaitley with a big margin in Amritsar that has a significant Hindu population. In Assembly elections, it is a widely known fact that the late swing of Hindu voters in Punjab tilted the results in favour of Congress five years back. With that critical mass getting away from the Congress due to Sidhu’s unpopularity and the Captain’s move towards the BJP camp, the problems for Congress camp could multi-fold negating the gains among Dalit voter by CM Channi.



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