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The Politics of Drugs

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on January 16, 2015 with No Comments


Just an year ago, the then Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal was labeled “Anarchist” for sitting on a dharna outside North Block with his ministers to demand the suspension of four police officers, who allegedly did not perform their duties. Political parties from across India, media had gone hammers and tongs against him; however all those went murkier silent when the ruling Badal clan of Punjab with the whole party paraphernalia organised well-attended dharnas along the Indo-Pakistan border against India’s Border Security Force. Five times chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has had a history of taking the “anarchist” route. The senior Badal courted controversy during one of the agitations in 1982 when he publicly tore the constitution of India. He apologised for the action years later. Ironically, he took oath as chief minister four times under the same constitution.

Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) launched its “nasha mukt Bharat” (drugs free India) campaign, but also sought to send out a warning against tarnishing the image of the State as being inhabited by drug addicts and peddlers. This kind of awaking of the ruling SAD was least expected, and came as a knee jerk reaction when its minister Bikramjeet Singh Majithia, brother in law of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal faced a tough day with the Enforcement Directorate to explain allegations about links with drugs smugglers involved in the Rs 6000 crore synthetic drugs racket.

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Despite all round criticism from various quarters, including alliance partner in state and at the centre, SAD went ahead with its newly phrased protest. After having announced that the dharnas were aimed at “pressurizing the Border Security Force” to stop the cross border smuggling of narcotics, the Akali Dal announced that it was an awareness campaign. SAD only got interested in the protest when Punjab Congress raised hue and cry in Punjab Assembly and BJP announced that its party president, Amit Shah would launch a statewide anti-drugs campaign from Amritsar on January 22. Just two kilometres away from the Indo Pak border, Sukhbir Singh Badal reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase allocation for the Border Security thus expressing its displeasure with India’s premier paramilitary force. Badals were at their dissent best when leader after leader of SAD lambasted the central government, and its alliance partner in Punjab the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and highlighted that BJP ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been carrying out cultivation of opium and other narcotics products and earning a fair bit out of these.  Thus the dharnas were an attempt to shift focus from Bikramjeet Singh and declare an all out attack on all those who could be remotely influencing the case.

Badals have been in power for good seven years and have been aware of the drug problem but only exerted to hold so called “awareness drives” on getting cornered. Till now, synthetic drugs was a potent tool for elections in the hands of the ruling clan, and SAD was able to garner votes in cash rich Punjab and today a majority of the youth are hooked to drugs thus making it easy for the political party in question to make the youth toe in its line .No wonder the venues where the dharnas were organised were found littered with remains of used drugs!

Having utilised drug for political gains, the ruling party is trying its best to run politics out of it now. The drug issue is fast becoming a highly polarised political discourse, and SAD has gone all out, knowing that the investigation against Bikramjeet Singh can take away sizeable votes, and in order to put a pressure on the central government it has also raised a demand for the release of Sikh terrorists. Known for its mobilising masses, the SAD could trigger a major agitation in Punjab in order to secure a better deal for Bikramjeet Singh. Be it Congress, or SAD or BJP; none is interested in finding a solution to the problem, it’s more to secure some political goals considering that the state would be going to elections in next two months.  In the Lok Sabha polls, when the alliance partners of BJP riding on Modi wave were able to garner higher votes, SAD in Punjab lost a sizeable base. SAD now faces a stiff competition not only from Congress but also from BJP that has had a history of ditching alliance partners like Shiv Sena in Maharastra just before crucial elections.

Undoubtedly fight against drugs is turning out to be nobody’s business; rather the drugs are fast becoming a purpose for many to remain viable in the business of politics even at the cost of the future of the youth. Will the Punjabis take up the cudgels against the enemy? Perhaps only if they would be able to.


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