Chandigarh, September 25: Aam Aadmi Party rebel MP from Patiala Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi would not be leading the front himself that he has proposed and the contours of which were discussed at a roundtable organized by him here today. Technically, he can’t head any other outfit so long as he is with AAP and it is for this reason that the party has not taken any further action even months after his suspension along with Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa several months all these months.
That something positive would emerge out of this initiative was indicated with the presence of representatives of another AAP rebel Sucha Singh Chhotepur who has decided to go ahead and float his new outfit. Time is already running out and the only other choice left with him to join the Congress. But then he is not alone. He has decided to chart his independent course and join hands with like-minded people and forces.
Also present at today’s conclave was suspended Akali Dal MLA from Jalandhar Cantt and former Olympian Pargat Singh who was part of Awaz-e-Punjab that was sabotaged by Navjot Singh Sidhu even before it took off. This outfit included independent MLAs Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains.
Dr Gandhi said after the roundtable that modalities of the new outfit were being worked out. However, it would not be a political party but some sort of arrangement under which like-minded parties and people can join hands for the future of Punjab. His plan is long term and not just February 2017 Assembly election.
Some forces are active behind the scene to cobble up challenge to the three parties in fray including the Akali Dal-BJP combine, the Congress and the AAP. The effort is to bring together Chhotepur, Dr Gandhi and other leaders.
Dr Gandhi had very candid admission to make about AAP. In his perception, the people have put down the “broom” but have not discarded it as yet. That would happen only in case the people are convinced by this front would provide an effective alternative to dictatorial AAP. It may be mentioned that there is little shift in AAP’s support base in Punjab despite the turbulence that the party is confronted with. It is not just the issue of Chhotepur forming his own party but also resentment against a number of candidates whose names have been announced so far.
The basic is the issues that the front proposes to take with the most important being revisiting relationship of Punjab with the Indian Union within the framework of the constitution. This is rephrasing the demand for autonomy that the Akali Dal raised with the adoption of Batala Resolution way back on 1968. Dr Gandhi today blasted the Akali Dal for betrayal with the people and Punjab with the changing interests of the leaders. It may be mentioned that for years, it was the Akali Dal that articulated the ambitions and aspirations of the common man in the state in general and the Sikhs in particular. The basic issue is imparting real federal character to the Indian Union.
It was today decided to work out a vision paper for which a committee has been constituted. This vision paper would have both short term and long term perspective for Punjab.
This front would vociferously press for royalty on river waters flowing to Rajasthan and Haryana.
“The apprehension is that people would start migrating from Punjab as there is the danger of this state turning barren with the water table going down at alarming rate and more than 70 per cent of the river waters having been diverted to the neighbouring non-Riparian states”, Dr Gandhi said. He cited royalty being charged by coal producing states.
There is yet another important objective and that is to democratise the Punjabi society by ending caste, class and gender discriminations. The police needs to be depoliticized and bureaucracy should have human face.
Preparing for elections in such a short time is not an easy task. The first and foremost is the selection of the right candidates. Then the infrastructure that has to be put in place upto the booth level. These are the practical problems. Vision papers are different from practical politics. The first step is the cobbling up a viable front.