Chandigarh, July 5: The Aam Aadmi Party today rightly apologised for hurting Sikh sentiments with its leaders talking to the media persons at a hurriedly organised interaction at the Mandi town of Khanna. The party had announced to address the media in Chandigarh earlier in the day. The party eyeing Punjab where it would form the government next after clean sweep in Delhi had committed two blunders in this sensitive state where the Sikh religious-political discourse often dictates the course of political stream.
Both these blunders were related to its much hyped ‘Youth Manifesto’ released by party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Amritsar on July 3 evening at an impressive gathering. The manifesto prepared by the Punjab committee carried the picture of Golden Temple along with party symbol ‘broom’-Jhadoo- and Kejriwal. It is apparent that none from the manifesto committee has understanding of the Sikh psyche and sensibilities.
The second howler was committed from the stage by Delhi based journalist-turned-politician Ashish Khetan who compared the document with Bible, Quran and Guru Granth Sahib. What he did not realise that Quran and Bible are highly revered religious texts but it is only Guru Granth Sahib that is worshipped as the Living Guru, the status bestowed by the 10th Lord, Guru Gobind Singh, while putting to an end the practice of a person as Guru-incarnate. There can be nothing more appalling to the Sikhs than comparing any book or person with Guru Granth Sahib.
The amends should have been made immediately but none realised the bloomers. The one person in AAP who is well-versed with the Sikh religio-political affairs is its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur who started his political career by getting elected to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in March, 1979. He was the person who led opposition to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale within the Golden Temple complex which none could even think of at that time.
Apparently, he might not have been consulted while finalising cover page of the manifesto. It may be mentioned that even the Akali Dal has never used symbolism of the Golden Temple on the cover of its manifesto. Of course, the picture of the Golden Temple has been used on the cover of the manifesto for elections to the general house of the SGPC. The Sarv Hind Akali Dal then led by Gurcharan Singh Tohra too used picture of the shrine in its SGPC poll manifesto.
The party needs better coordination.
There is another dimension from which one can safely conclude that the party did not realise the hurt it had caused till it came under attack on the issue.
One of the AAP leaders has tweeted in self-praise, “AAP Manifesto unsettles Opposition”. This was hours after its release. It was finally AAP that got unsettled and had to apologise on the concluding day of the 3-day visit of Kejriwal to the state.
The visit was marred by two issues both of which are very sensitive, the other being the name of AAP MLA Naresh Yadav having surfaced in the case of sacrilege of Quran at Malerkotla who has joined investigations. Of course, Kejriwal received enthusiastic response at Malerkotla last evening where he joined Iftar party.
Punjab presently is characterised by tsunami of anti-incumbency against the Akali Dal-BJP combine followed by the Congress. It is the last three months in general and last 72 hours in particular that are considered to be crucial in the state going by the past experience. AAP would have to avoid becoming victim of over-confidence. It is this over-confidence that breeds arrogance.
AAP was supposed to evolve as an engine of socio-economic change rather than taking recourse to the traditional symbolism and political discourse. Kejriwal’s 3-day visit was more an exercise in social engineering rather than presenting his party as catalyst for socio-economic change. The party was off-shoot of anti-corruption movement but then in theory, every party is against corruption and the manifesto of each and every party in fray in Punjab 2017 would be focussed on this issue. This was the issue on which the Congress commanded by Capt Amarinder Singh dislodged the Akali Dal-BJP government in 2002.
AAP in Punjab has certain people whose credibility even on the anvil of corruption is under question mark.
The party would have to tread cautiously in the run up to the elections as any repetition of the blunders that AAP leaders have committed during the last a little more than 72 hours can prove to be too costly.