New Delhi, March 11 : Congress party veteran Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday effectively turned on its head the BJP slogan of “Congress-mukt Bharat”, as he single-handedly led the party to victory in the state and emerged as a beacon of hope for the Congress that was beginning to be viewed as relegated to the political sidelines.
Singh, for whom the Punjab win came as a double celebration as he turned 75 on Saturday, not only helped the Congress trounce the strong ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, but also ensured his own victory in Patiala-Urban.
Over the years Amarinder, who has several books to his credit, has proved to be one of the strongest regional leaders of the party who even dared to challenge Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Lambi. He was however defeated in Lambi. Amarinder, who is very popular in the state, defeated senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley by a margin of more than 1,02,000 votes in the 2014 general elections.
Given his stature and popularity, Captain Amarinder Singh could eventually emerge as a very strong “national leader” in future.
Amarinder Singh, who is also the Punjab Congress president, was the chief minister of the state from 2002 to 2007.
Earlier, there was a lot of speculation that cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the party after initial hesitation, would be announced the chief ministerial candidate as the party High Command was reportedly in favour of him.
Despite that a composed Amarinder Singh had ensured that the Punjab Congress manifesto had his stamp on it, declaring that if the party came to power it would eliminate the drugs menace in the state within four weeks.
He had also risen above the internal political divide within the party and emerged victorious when the Partap Singh Bajwa-led faction had rebelled against him.
With just a week to go before the February 4 poll date, party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi announced on January 27 that Captain Amarinder Singh would head the government if the Congress was voted to power – putting an end to all speculation.
Gandhi had said only a Punjabi leader could lead the state.
Singh had also resigned from the Lok Sabha membership to protest over the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue. The Congress leader was representing Amritsar constituency in Punjab in the 16th Lok Sabha. He was also Deputy Leader of the Congress Legislature Party in the lower house.
He has also written a few books on war and Sikh history which include ‘A Ridge Too Far, Lest We Forget’, ‘The Last Sunset: Rise and Fall of Lahore Durbar’ and ‘The Sikhs in Britain: 150 years of Photographs’.
Among his most recent works are ‘Honour and Fidelity: India’s Military Contribution to the Great War 1914 to 1918’ and ‘The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce – 1965 India-Pakistan War’.