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

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Milking 1984 as an Election Issue

Punjab is heading for an assembly poll with two new entities in the fray, the Aam Aadmi Party and theAwaaz-e-Punjab front. While the record of the ruling Shiromani Akali DalBharatiya Janata Party combine is shabby, the Congress still faces the uncomfortable task of answering for Operation Blue Star and issues related to the anti-Sikh violence of 1984. Though AAP looks like it has an advantage because it raised the 1984 issue early, it is open which way the votes will swing and 1984 could yet again be a deciding factor.

Come elections, the issues related to 1984 return to the fore in Punjab. The political discourse during every election now invariably includes the sharing of river waters with Haryana, making Chandigarh the capital of Punjab, merging the Punjabi-speaking areas given to Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Operation Blue Star, and the anti-Sikh violence of 1984. The last two are the most significant, resonating with Sikhs even after three decades.

Traditionally, Punjab has been dominated by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress. There have also been smaller parties such as the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Both the dominant parties earlier formed alliances with the smaller parties to come to power. But in the last few decades, most of the small parties have been routed, leaving the SAD and the Congress the major players. In this situation, the SAD has had an advantage over the Congress, which cannot deny it had a role in Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh violence of 1984. This may not hold in the 2017 election with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has turned the fight into a triangular one, and is proactive on the issues of 1984—it released ₹10 crore to renovate the houses of widows of the 1984 violence in Delhi.

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