Chandigarh, September 5: Punjab, the state confronted by deepening socio-economic crisis, is fast turning into comedy circus with actors and directors being professionals. The likes of Balwant Singh Ramoowalia have been replaced by Manns, Sidhus, Ghuggis and Sukhbirs. The space once monopolised by Delputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal has been encroached upon by professionals in this field. Sukhbir played this comic role perhaps unconsciously.
Aam Aadmi Party, that seemed to be the biggest challenge posing the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress, the two established parties, is now churning out tragi-comedies. It is tragedy for the people who seemed to be fully backing up this rookie party to bring about much needed change.
The battered and badly bruised AAP has replaced Sucha Singh Chhotepur with Gurpreet Ghuggi, a professional jester and actor. He was the latest acquisition of Arvind Kejriwal in Punjab. One does not know as to how a person like ambitious Sukhpal Singh Khaira might be feeling. There are others like him who would now seek instructions from the new convener who himself can be termed as political novice.
It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is in the habit of talking to the people in the country via the NRIs whenever he goes abroad and that is too often. Kejriwal too is now following him closely at least in this respect. It was after landing in Italy earlier that he announced at a reception by the Punjabis that he was set to take over direct command of the party affairs in the state. The announcement was greeted by the gathering with “Bole So Nihaal…”. He wants to have iron grip as the broom has already disintegrated following the sack of Chhotepur who has received unexpected support from the people with AAP now facing vertical split.
This development has sharpened the focus on the system of outsiders enjoying overriding powers on Punjab unit. The Congress too has its incharge from the AICC. However, the role more or less has remained confined to mobilizing funds. Ambitious ticket seekers in Punjab are too liberal in some respects. AAP leaders from outsiders too now seem to know it. In case of AAP, even the person designated as the spokesman can’t issue a statement without getting the same cleared by the outsider bosses. This is the difference. Working in other state is different from controlling the party affairs with local leaders being just dummies. It is Punjab incharge Sanjay Singh who can be seen doing all the talking at every press conference while Chhotepur would just be a silent show piece, giving byte to TV cameramen after the show. This functioning can certainly be termed as dictatorial.
Non-ideological AAP is unique in the sense that this party has neither national nor regional identity as it was the bye-product of now forgotten anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare that was designed by RSS backroom boys in the Vivekananda Foundation. The party talked of value based politics but that slogan has been badly deflated with more than a dozen of its MLAs facing criminal cases, the latest being that of its Women and Child Development minister Sandip Kumar who is now in police custody following a sex scandal.
The party has no historical baggage like the Congress, the Akali Dal or the Bharatiya Janata Party and hence neither any advantage. In Punjab, it thrived mainly on tsunami of anti-incumbency against the Parkash Singh Badal government and the failure of the demoralized Congress to convince the people that it is in a position to displace Badals. The party needs to have a positive agenda. Its manifesto for the youth released in Amritsar with much fanfare has already been confined to the dustbin of history. Assembly elections are due in February next. Now Kejriwal is to announce manifesto for farmers at Moga on September 11.
Kejriwal said in Italy that who-so-ever was opposing AAP was supporting Badals. His attack was directed at people like Navjot Singh Sidhu and Olympian and Akali MLA Pargat Singh who have joined hands to float a new front to be known as Awaz-e-Punjab. Chhotepur is starting his Punjab tour before announcing his political outfit that might join hands with Awaz-e-Punjab. It is for this reason that Kejriwal has tried to attack this emerging group with this argument. The issue is not just replacing Badals but also providing a blueprint to revive Punjab.
Awaz-e-Punjab, AAP and alternative AAP led by Chhotepur have been reduced to gatherings of candidates rather than parties based on any ideology or concrete programme. These groups have been pushed to the periphery with Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Congress once again forming the core of the political matrix.
At another level, these formations have been reduced to political clubs.
AAP should understand that its outsiders were maintaining total grip over the party in the state leaving no space for local leaders. Now Kejriwal intends to further tighten this iron grip. Ghuggis of AAP just can’t protest.