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Bittu’s stand on ‘Bandi Sikhs’, Rajoana clemency point towards dilution of BJP stand on these two issues post 2024 LS polls

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Bittu’s stand on ‘Bandi Sikhs’, Rajoana clemency point towards dilution of BJP stand on these two issues post 2024 LS polls

Umesh Dewan

Chandigarh, June 17

With the newly appointed Union Minister of State for Railways and Food Processing and grandson of Beant Singh, a former Punjab Chief Minister, categorically stating that he will not oppose any move to clemency for Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for the assassination of Beant Singh, the political observers in the state are of the opinion that his (Bittu) statement clearly reflects a dilution of the stand of BJP post 2024 elections. “With respect to Punjab, there has been a sudden change in the strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Party post 2024 general elections,” political observers believe.

Ravneet Singh Bittu

Interestingly, not only the clemency issue, on the long pending issue of the release of ‘Bandi Sikhs’ (Eight Sikh prisoners, those who have completed their sentence), Bittu went on record saying, “If needed, he will fight for their release.” The development assumes significance in the wake of the fact that so far Bittu had maintained an anti-radical stand and had stiffly opposed the release of Bandi Sikhs and clemency to Rajoana. Bean Singh, Grandfather of Ranveet Bittu was assassinated by militants.

Balwant Singh Rajoana

Now, the matter of fact is that being immediately inducted into the Council of Ministers is what prompted Bittu to take a complete U-turn from his earlier stance. If sources in BJP, New Delhi, are to be believed, the victory of the independents in two Parliamentary Constituencies of Punjab – Amritpal Singh from Khadoor Sahib and Sarebjeet Singh Khalsa from Faridkot, forced the saffron party to rethink its strategy vis-à-vis issue of the release of Bandi Sikhs and clemency to Rajoana. Though none of the leaders of any mainstream political party are ready to speak on record on the issue but according to the senior BJP leaders, Bittu’s statement is not the official stand of the party. “It is actually a bigger game plan of the BJP, as far as Sikh outreach is concerned besides normalizing ties with its old ally Shiromani Akali Dal”, says highly placed sources in the BJP.

Amritpal Singh

It is pertinent to mention that Amritpal, a Sikh hardliner, who openly supports the cause of Khalistan and is currently lodged in Dibrugarh Jail in Assaan under the National Security Act (NSA), has won from Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha constituency with a margin of 197,120 votes. Likewise, Sarabjeet Singh, who is the son of Beant Singh, the former bodyguard and one of the assassins of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, has registered victory from Faridkot Lok Sabha Parliamentary Constituency. The victory of these two independents has sent enough signals that radical element in the border state of Punjab still persists and more interestingly the Punjab electorate has no more faith in SAD, a party that has always claimed to be the custodian of the Sikh community.

A seasoned journalist and a political commentator, who minutely observes Sikh politics, told The Northern Gazette, “Without a go ahead of party high command, Bittu cannot dare to make such a statement, even in personal capacity. His statement is a loud and clear message that BJP has softened its stand with respect to these two crucial issues.” With BJP’s vote share in Punjab up from 9.63 per cent in the 2019 election to 18.56 per cent in 2014, the party believes that it will play a major role in the 2027 State Assembly Elections but for that, it has to win over the hearts of the Sikh community at large.

Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa

While earlier, it was mainly Akali Dal demanding the release of the ‘Bandi Sikhs’ and clemency to Rajoana, now, with Bittu’s statement, the BJP has also come into the picture. Tomorrow, if the matter is resolved – ‘Bandi Sikhs’ are released and Rajoana’s death sentence is commuted, it would not be the SAD, who will take the sole credit but BJP as well. BJP think tank strongly feels that since the decision in the matter has to be taken by the Centre, releasing the ‘Bandi Sikhs’ and clemency to Rajoana would not only be a healing touch for the Sikh community but a big step in the direction of removing bitterness towards BJP from a large section of Sikhs.

Interestingly, it would also serve another purpose – the main bone of contention between SAD and BJP over re-stitching an alliance would also be over. So far, Akali Dal has been adamant that till the BJP government releases ‘Bandi Sikhs’ and commutes the death sentence of Rajoana, it is not possible to ally but once these things are done, the main hurdle between the two parties forging a fresh alliance would be over. Though, only time will tell, whether ‘Bandi Sikhs’ are released and Rajoana gets clemency but for now, BJP intends to gain maximum from the issue.

 

 

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