ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Punjab at the Crossroads

Punjab has been going through a churn in its society and its economy for some time and now its bipolar politics is being stirred with the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party. Will these socio-economic transformations be strong enough to upset the hold of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in the state?

The landmark victory of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)–Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in 2012 was a signal of the beginning of a new era in Punjab politics, for development shorn of religious issues won the day for the already ruling coalition. In the absence of an alternate politics, farce and tragedies began to occupy public spaces in Punjab. On 11 October 2012, Rahul Gandhi in a speech at a National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) rally in Chandigarh said that seven out of 10 (70%) youth were drug addicts. Rahul Gandhi’s statement of the fact was based on a study conducted by sociologist R S Sandhu (2009) of the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. In fact, it was a gross misrepresentation of the findings of the study. Conducted in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda Districts with equal size of urban and rural samples, 600 drug addicts were surveyed. It was found that 73.50% of the total addicts belonged to the age group of “up to 35 years.” It was highest in the age group 18–26 years, that is, 40.50% (Sandhu 2009: 34). Nowhere did the study say that 70% of Punjab’s youth was addicted to drugs.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech created countrywide curiosity and controversy in political circles. Whereas the Congress identified this new issue for electoral success by pointing fingers towards certain SAD leaders as narcotic smugglers, the young Punjabi aspirant for jobs faced stereotyped questions about drug addiction among Punjab’s youth; it turned out to be a serious threat to his job opportunities.

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