Amarinder Singh: Down and now out!
That he and his Congress party were down in morale after repeated defeats in the elections this year was not hidden from anyone. But now, Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh is out too - literally!
Amarinder Singh, who was last seen in the state during the recent by-election to the Dasuya assembly seat from Hoshiarpur district, has now gone on a holiday to South Africa. The reason being extended by his camp for his visit is that he wanted to do some wildlife shooting and photography.
Having armed himself with a sophisticated digital camera and advanced lenses, Amarinder Singh seems to be taking his photography initiative rather seriously.
Though known in Punjab, and particularly in Congress circles, for his royal ways (Amarinder Singh belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala and is still addressed as Maharaja by his close aides), party leaders are upset that Amarinder is taking his and his party's present situation of being out of power rather too casually.
"He is still behaving as if the Congress is in power in Punjab. Despite the humiliating defeat in the assembly, municipal and other by-elections this year under his leadership, he seems to be having a rather good time," a senior Congress legislator told IANS.
With a string of defeats, including the assembly election debacle which the Congress had never anticipated, Congress circles are abuzz that Amarinder Singh will face the axe for the party's poor showing in the polls. But his timing of going on a holiday at such a time has left many people wondering about what he is up to.
"At a time when he is likely to be removed as president (of the Punjab Congress), he is least bothered and enjoying himself," the legislator said.
The grapevine is that Amarinder will be joined on his South African sojourn by his friend Aroosa Alam, a Pakistani journalist and socialite who has been with him in the past couple of years. Alam was in Chandigarh and New Delhi during the run-up to the January assembly elections in Punjab.
Punjab's ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine, though, is not complaining about Amarinder Singh's holiday.
"Under his leadership, the Congress is hardly getting inspired. After so many defeats in recent months, he truly needs a break. His party too needs a break from him," a newly-elected Akali Dal legislator joked.
Interestingly, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy chief minister and son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, had also gone for a long holiday to South Africa just after the Jan 30 assembly voting and before the result were out in the first week of March.
Sukhbir Badal, who is Akali Dal president, has been to South Africa more than twice in recent times.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)