It's must be an exceptionally happy 75th birthday for Captain Amarinder Singh today. While the Congress Party was decimated by the Bharatiya Janta Party's landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh, its performance in Punjab was far more impressive. What could be a better gift than a shot at the chief minister's office once again?
From being hailed as the people's Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Patiala to becoming a leader elected by the masses, Singh has come a long way. Prashant Kishor's political strategy, with hard work put in on the field by Captain and his party, are believed to have turned the tide in his favour in these polls.
While Singh's ambitions extended to also fighting the sitting CM Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from the Lambi constituency, but that, as it turned out, didn't work out well.
Drug addiction among the youth, farmers facing dire agrarian crisis and a simmering resentment due to the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib defined the political contest in Punjab in these assembly polls. In the last one, in 2012, the Congress had lost to the incumbent SAD by a 2% less vote share.
Exit polls predicted strong changes of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) coming to power in Punjab but the picture that has now emerged is radically different. Part of the Congress's success may be attributed to Singh's foresight in getting the support of leaders like Badal's estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal of the People's Party of Punjab, which had merged with the Congress last year.
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune as well as of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Singh is a two-time Lok Sabha member. He also was the Congress Party's deputy leader in the Lower House, until he resigned from the position last year over the disputed Sutlej Yamuna Link issue.
An authorised biography, The People's Maharaja, written by Chandigarh-based journalist Khushwant Singh, was published recently.
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