Chandigarh, August 25: The blast in the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab close to the Assembly elections due in February next is an advantageous challenge both for state Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. It was a crisis that was waiting to erupt as AAP’s state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur who is being replaced by Himmat Singh Shergill had been alerted about the lurking danger about four months back. He preferred to ignore it.
Ordinarily, no party can afford such crisis involving its state president at such a crucial juncture and moreover, when the issue is that of corruption. The party could have ignored it but the problem with AAP is that it is product of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare during which Arvind Kejriwal was among the most visible persons. AAP can’t afford allegation of corruption against any leader and at any level. One of the leaders was of the opinion that rather than tolerating corruption, it would be better to lose election. In a state like Punjab, such a tough stand against corruption is what the people would like.
It is this situation at the grassroots that poses advantageous challenge to Amarinder and Sukhbir. It is the rampant corruption at the cutting edge level that affects the common man and the situation is worst in Punjab. It would need very tough measures to stem the rot. The system of Halqa incharge (constituency incharge) introduced by Sukhbir Singh Badal is the single most contributory factor to increase in corruption in bureaucracy and the police administration.
It may be mentioned that this was one of the main factors in 2002 Assembly election that facilitated the victory of the Congress under the command of Capt Amarinder Singh. Within no time of coming into power, he went into action starting from the top. Slush money started tumbling out of the bank lockers. He set the example. He succeeded in controlling the rot to a large extent. The situation is the worst now as it is the common person who is affected. Drugs may not be that big an issue as corruption.
The challenge is how to exploit the situation to cause maximum harm to AAP. The party has taken a calculated risk. AAP is already prepared for the situation to launch counter attack. After all, as of today, AAP is in a strong position and Congress is still to work hard. Sukhbir is not a person who would give up without a fight. However, it would be difficult for the Akali Dal to take advantage of the crisis as the party is already under attack on this issue.
Categorical information had started coming out about four months back indicating change in state leadership in Punjab. Even a couple of days before the sting operation surfaced, the removal of Chhotepur was on the anvil. Complaints had been reaching the top leadership in Delhi.
Cautious AAP gave a chance to Chhotepur to present his side of the story. At the same time, he went public with the criticism of the party leadership on the issue of maintaining accounts. Earlier, he had taken a tough stand publicly against the selection of some candidates in the first list released by Sanjay Singh in his absence. That was clear indication that all was not well. It is normal for the state party chief to make commitments to people.
For the last some weeks, AAP has been facing embarrassing moments for one reason or the other. The only plus point is that it is the people who want a change. It is this situation that poses challenge mainly to Amarinder.
It is to be seen how he turns it from advantageous challenge to Advantage Congress. The party, of late, has started showing some signs of recovery but Amarinder would have to exert more to instill confidence among the workers at the grassroots that the Congress can win.
This is the first election in Punjab that is being strategized by experts and as such, it is a challenge to them too. For Sukhbir, more would be merrier.
Chhotepur would display his cards tomorrow. He may not be the state convener by that time.