Manpreet Singh Badal gave up the heritage of Shiromani Akali Dal as well as the Badal family to change the political discourse in Punjab and floated the People’s Party of Punjab,also known by its acronym as PPP at the native village of Bhagat Singh in March last year. The ideals of Bhagat Singh that he swore by inspired the youth and old-world revolutionaries who quickly took to him in the initial days.
The outpouring of support from people from all walks of life looked like a deluge then. Manpreet Singh Badal followed up on his pledge with a whirl-wind, ‘wake-up’ tour of the state through what he called the ‘Jago Punjab Yatra’, which was very well received. But what looked like a mass mobilization movement that sent a scare amongst the two major parties of the state, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress, soon started to wane.
A lot of Mapreet’s supporters in the PPP felt that his was a one-man show. He was also perceived as too much of an idealist. The first person to leave him and re-join the Shiromani Akali Dal turned out to be the first person who had joined him when he walked out of the Shiromani Akali Dal himself: Charanjit Brar, who made his disgust known soon after opting out.
Brar’s departure was followed by the exit of two more senior PPP leaders on the eve of the state Assembly elections last December: Jagbir Singh Brar and Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, both of whom joined the Congress. While Jagbir Singh Brar was a sitting MLA in the last Punjab Assembly, Dhillon had been a former MLA. What stung the PPP and Manpreet the most was that Jagbir Singh Brar was his close relative.
So allegations of authoritarianism and continued departures marred the PPP’s prospects in the Assembly elections. Consequently, PPP failed to win even a single seat at the hustings in spite of cobbling together a joint front, the ‘Sanjha Morcha’, comprising the CPI, the CPI-M and the Akali Dal (Longowal). The Sanjha Morcha polled about five per cent votes in the Assembly elections but was unable to turn these into seats.
Soon after the Shiromani Akali Dal emerged as a winner in the Assembly elections, Manpreet’s paternal uncle and Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, observed that Manpreet had made a ‘Himalayan blunder’ and committed ‘political suicide’.
The departures from the PPP and allegations against Manpreet Singh Badal for being authoritarian have continued since. And the resignation of former Punjab Deputy Speaker and senior leader Bir Devinder Singh as the PPP’s Chief Spokesman earlier this week has only deepened the crisis in the party.
The patron of the PPP, Sardara Singh Johal, feels that Manpreet must democratize the functioning of the PPP to strengthen it. Johal also feels that both Bir Devinder Singh and Manpreet Singh Badal have acted in haste and both of them needed to show maturity and restraint while conducting themselves in public.
The defeat in Punjab Assembly elections, besides polls to municipal bodies of the state, and the war of words between the PPP leaders have demoralized the party’s cadres. As a result, the PPP’s presence on the ground has dwindled, just as the spirit with which Manpreet set out on his mission. All key leaders who had joined him in his fight for change have left the party. Manpreet, for his part, feels that the path he has chosen is full of impediments and everyone doesn’t have the gumption to fight a long drawn out political battle.
Manpreet Singh Badal had vowed to change the future of Punjab when he set out to form the PPP in March last year. But in less than two years, the situation is that, leave alone the future of Punjab, the future of the PPP itself has become doubtful. If political observers are to be believed, Manpreet is staring at three scenarios:
One, that he will go back to the Akali Dal;
Two, that he will join the Congress party;
And three, that he will enter into some kind of understanding or alliance with the Congress in the 2014 General Elections and reverse his fortunes.
Manrpeet denies all this as useless speculation, but can there be smoke without fire?
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