All eyes will turn towards Khatkar Kalan today as the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief ministerial candidate for Punjab Bhagwant Mann will be sworn in around 11.30 am.
Shortly after the votes were counted and the AAP was declared the winner, Bhagwant Mann had announced that he would be taking his oath in the village located in Nawanshahr Tehsil of Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar district and not at Raj Bhawan.
For the unversed, Khatkar Kalan is the ancestral village of the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
Ahead of being sworn in as Punjab’s 18th chief minister at Bhagat Singh’s village, AAP has asked people to turn up in ‘basanti’ turbans and dupattas at the venue — as a tribute and honour to the freedom fighter.
चलो, शहीद-ए-आज़म भगत सिंह जी के पिंड को बसंती रंग से रंग दें!
वीर बसंती पग बांध कर आएं और बहनें बसंती चुन्नी ले कर आना न भूलें।
⌚11:30 AM pic.twitter.com/cM0Qn35nfX
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) March 15, 2022
It has been learnt that the AAP, who won Punjab after bagging 92 of the 177 seats in the recently-concluded elections, has gone all out for the oath-taking ceremony today.
It has been reported that the venue is spread over 50 acres of land with another 50 acres earmarked for parking of vehicles. Additionally, 12 first-aid teams will also be deployed to provide emergency first-aid.
Officials said full-proof security arrangements have been made for the ceremony and several senior officials, including Inspector General and Senior Superintendent Police rank officers, have been deputed for the event.
The Indian Express has reported that the new AAP government has not invited any VVIP for the ceremony, which has been given the theme of ‘Rang De Basanti’.
The national daily has further reported that the government is spending more than Rs 2 crore for the function.
However, this is not the first time that Bhagat Singh has found resonance in today’s politics. Political parties have time and again used his name to invoke a sense of nationalistic pride and to woo voters.
The Congress’ Rajiv Gandhi invoked the freedom fighter in 1985 when Punjab was facing a severe crisis following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. On 23 March 1985, Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, had visited the National Martyrs Memorial at Hussainiwala in Punjab's Ferozepur district.
Incidentally, Hussainiwala is where Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were cremated by the British on 23 March 1931.
Politics over Bhagat Singh had erupted in 2016 when the Congress and BJP clashed over the freedom fighter. The Grand Old Party had said that Congress government in Haryana had proposed to name the Chandigarh international airport after Bhagat Singh. But, the BJP had opposed to this.
The BJP has also made several efforts to co-opt Bhagat Singh. In 2015, Narendra Modi became the second prime minister to visit Hussainiwala. Incidentally, he had worn a yellow turban — a colour, which is linked to Bhagat Singh.
Narendra Modi once again raised the issue of Bhagat Singh in 2018 during a public rally in Karnataka's Bidar. He had then said, “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, (and) Veer Savarkar were jailed fighting for the country's independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them?”
"But the Congress leaders meet the corrupt people who have been jailed", the prime minister said, probably referring to Rahul Gandhi's recent meeting with Lalu Prasad Yadav at AIIMS in Delhi.
When freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dut etc were jailed while fighting for our independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them? But the Congress leaders have the time to meet people who're corrupt & have been jailed: PM Modi in Bidar #KarnatakaElections2018 pic.twitter.com/xl36dIiiae
— ANI (@ANI) May 9, 2018
However, people were quick to react to this claim. Historians and netizens pointed out that Jawaharlal Nehru had, in fact, visited Bhagat Singh in jail in 1929.
It is left to be seen if AAP’s move of co-opting Bhagat Singh will pay off, but as of today, one thing is sure. Punjab will experience a wave of ‘basanti’ today and the chants of Rang de Basanti will ring out loud and clear.
With inputs from agencies