The thumping victory that Captain Amarinder Singh has notched up for the Congress in Punjab, winning as many as 77 seats in an Assembly of 117 members, invests in him a major opportunity to give the State a clean and efficient administration. There is no mistaking the fact that it was largely a triumph of Amarinder’s organisational skills, his record of governance and in the eyes of the people his capacity to correct the wrongs that Punjab went through under Akali-BJP rule, that brought him victory.
The blue-blooded Amarinder, who has always enjoyed a luxurious life, really took it upon himself to carry the party on his broad shoulders through hard work and dedication to the goals he had set himself. At 75, this was a do-or-die battle for him which he used to good effect. Having defeated BJP strongman Arun Jaitley in an earlier Lok Sabha election, Amarinder had already shown that he was a giant-killer.
The Congress party under him fought hard on the planks of rooting out the drug menace from the badly-afflicted State and to curb corruption which had been rampant under the Parkash Singh Badal regime which held the reins for two terms. Allegations had flown thick and fast that the Badal regime was shielding those who had a hand in drug trafficking from across the border. Now, the ball is in Amarinder’s court to wean Punjab’s youth away from drugs and to come down hard on drug traffickers who have been playing havoc with the State.
He would predictably have to resort to tough measures but his past record shows that he is up to the task. In his first term as chief minister, he had given the State a relatively efficient administration. The other challenge is of controlling corruption. It would not be easy considering how well-entrenched corrupt elements are, but any failure to do that would spell doom for him and the Congress. There is also the fact of terror waiting to raise its ugly head in Punjab which Amarinder would have to grapple with. The new government is indeed launching out with high expectations. It would now be required to prove itself sooner than later.
The Congress has to re-establish its credentials as a party committed to serving the citizen. Its new government in Punjab has an opportunity to turn a page. Congress has to sidestep the trap of cronyism. The battle against favouritism and nepotism should begin at the earliest.