Mail Today - - FRONT PAGE - By Harmeet Shah Singh in New Delhi

PUN­JAB min­is­ter Navjot Singh Sidhu's con­tro­ver­sial visit to Pak­istan five months ago ap­pears to have paid him rich po­lit­i­cal div­i­dends back home, with the for­mer crick­eter's pop­u­lar­ity tak­ing a leap in Pun­jab over the pro­posed Kar­tarpur cor­ri­dor,

In­dia To­day's Po­lit­i­cal Stock Ex­change (PSE) showed.

In Au­gust, op­po­nents pounced on the Congress leader for hug­ging Pak­istan army chief Qa­mar Javed Ba­jwa dur­ing Im­ran Khan's swear­ing-in as the coun­try's new prime min­is­ter.

He wasn't spared by Pun­jab CM Amarinder Singh ei­ther who dis­ap­proved of his act. Sidhu, how­ever, de­fended the em­brace, say­ing it came in re­sponse to Gen­eral Ba­jwa's pro­posal to build a pil­grim cor­ri­dor link­ing Katarpur Sahib in Pak­istan with Dera Baba Nanak at Gur­daspur in Pun­jab.


The PSE sur­vey, con­ducted by Axis-My-In­dia for In­dia To­day, showed Sidhu's pop­u­lar­ity in Pun­jab has in­creased four­fold over the past three months, with 16% sup­port­ing him as the state's next chief min­is­ter, up from 4% in Oc­to­ber. In Novem­ber, Pak­istan PM Im­ran Khan broke ground to give visa-free ac­cess to In­dian Sikh devo­tees to Kar­tarpur Sahib, the sa­cred site largely be re­ferred to as the fi­nal rest­ing place of Guru Nanak, who died in 1539.

But the sym­bol­ism as­so­ci­ated with Kar­tarpur is much higher, es­pe­cially for the Sikhs. Guru Nanak set­tled at Kar­tarpur af­ter his life-long mis­sion­ary trav­els across the sub­con­ti­nent to as far as the Arab world and back. The in­sti­tu­tion of a com­mu­nity kitchen, or lan­gar, which broke caste, so­cial, re­li­gious and ge­o­graph­i­cal distinc­tions, was also for­malised in the same vil­lage.

Ac­cord­ing to the PSE, 42% of Pun­jab res­i­dents cred­ited Sidhu for the cor­ri­dor project. Only 15% ac­knowl­edged Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and 14% Cap­tain Amarinder Singh for the cross­bor­der ini­tia­tive.

As chief min­is­ter, Amarinder's pop­u­lar­ity, on the other hand, has dropped from 42% three months ago to 33% now, the sur­vey in­di­cated.

Akali vet­eran Parkash Singh Badal's rat­ings too reg­is­tered a plunge as a fu­ture can­di­date for the CM - from 29% in Oc­to­ber to 24% in Jan­uary this year. His son and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has been found to be trail­ing far be­hind at 8%, down from 12% three months ago.

Around 52% ap­proved of Sidhu's visit to Pak­istan to at­tend the Novem­ber ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for the pro­posed cor­ri­dor while 20% op­posed his de­ci­sion.


More than 45% of vot­ers in Pun­jab be­lieve Amarinder hasn't been able to curb the scourge of drugs, an is­sue that he promised to deal with firmly be­fore the state assem­bly elec­tions in 2017. 41% found him to have suc­ceeded on this front, the lat­est PSE showed.

In an Oc­to­ber 2016 Axis-MyIn­dia opin­ion poll for In­dia To­day, most of the re­spon­dents – 76% of them - ac­knowl­edged drugs as a ma­jor prob­lem af­flict­ing Pun­jab. Around 80% of them blamed the scourge on the then Pun­jab gov­ern­ment and politi­cians.


In terms of over­all per­for­mance, Amarinder's gov­ern­ment seems to have re­cov­ered some pub­lic con­fi­dence that it lost three months ago. 34% of the re­spon­dents ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with his ad­min­is­tra­tion, up from 28% in Oc­to­ber. Dis­sat­is­fac­tion lev­els have come down from 45% to 41% dur­ing the same pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the PSE.


For Pun­jab res­i­dents, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties have emerged as a ma­jor is­sue (33%) fol­lowed by price rise (22%) and farm-re­lated dif­fi­cul­ties (18%).


Congress chief Rahul Gandhi sur­passes Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi as Pun­jab's choice for the next PM, the PSE in­di­cated. While 37% backed Gandhi, Modi was sup­ported by 34% for the top job, the sur­vey showed.


Forty per­cent ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment com­pared to 42 per­cent in Oc­to­ber.

Pub­lic sat­is­fac­tion with the Modi gov­ern­ment rose from 31 per­cent three months ago to 36 per­cent now, ac­cord­ing to the PSE data.


The Pun­jab PSE sur­vey was con­ducted via tele­phone in­ter­views across 13 par­lia­men­tary con­stituen­cies of the state, with a sam­ple size of 1,372.

In­dia To­day TV

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