Chandigarh, October 27: Several Sikh groups in Punjab have been hobnobbing with the Aam Aadmi Party before its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur was humiliatingly shunted out by labelling him as corrupt. Now it is AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal who is going after them. The desperation in AAP is too evident as the party peaked out early. The biggest problem that the party now faces is the lack of an effective and credible face in the state. There is none to mollify the hurt feelings of the party activists who have turned rebels in protest against several of the candidates announced by the party so far.
AAP had hit the scene as a party with a difference but going by its practice, it is going through the same electoral rut. Kejriwal called upon former Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh and eminent Sikh preacher Panthpreet Singh during his latest tour of the state to seek their support besides some other dera heads.
Nandgarh has been nominated patron of the newly formed Akhand Akali Dal headed by Ravi Inder Singh. Kejriwal should have known that Ravi Inder Singh is a personal friend of state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh. Yet another Sikh conglomerate that is active is the one comprising United Akali Dal and the Akali Dal (Amritsar). This faction is presently busy in organising Sarbat Khalsa at Talwandi Sabo on November 10 in an apparent attempt to reiterate its show of strength. It may be mentioned that similar conclave last year at Chabba village near Amritsar had witnessed massive participation. That was more as a mark of resentment against continuing incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. The organisers are hoping for repeat performance with an eye on February 2017 Assembly elections.
People like Nandgarh have little influence on the voting behaviour of the people. The political discourse in Punjab has its own dynamics. They represent a miniscule segment that has always been opposed to the politics of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. This segment is different from the one that is part of the anti-incumbency block. In the absence of the candidates from these sections, it is the Congress that used to gain earlier. This has all the more so with Capt Amarinder Singh being popular in the Panthic ranks. The tilt of this section this time was more towards AAP. However, with several of these groups in the field, there is less likelihood of AAP getting such votes. It would be an indirect gain for both Amarinder and Badal.
It was in the Malwa heartland that AAP tidal wave was being witnessed earlier. It is this very region from where the Congress had gained in 2012. Capt Amarinder Singh launched his loan waiver scheme for farmers from this very region that seems to have rattled AAP. The campaign initiated by Capt Amarinder Singh on the issue of loan waiver has picked up. Interestingly, even the Akali Dal supporters are filling up the farms for loan waiver that the Congress is collecting.
The Akali Dal has been attacking Capt Amarinder Singh and his party for misleading farmers on this sensitive issue. But then farmers trust Capt Amarinder Singh going by their experience with his government when they faced no hassles or harassment.
During his meetings with the Sikh preachers, Kejriwal focussed on two main issues- drugs and sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. He promised to put culprits behind bar. However, he has been silent on some sensitive issues that have the potential to change political discourse in the state. This includes the outcome of the Supreme Court intervention in the river waters dispute.
It was AAP that was the first to launch its campaign in Punjab by deploying its troopers from outside the state and this system boomeranged. The damage is irretrievable. The only state leader who attracts people is Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann. Besides an effective face, what the party lacks is the team functioning. But then there is no team as such. The Delhi leadership did not allow leadership to evolve in Punjab to maintain its iron grip.
Kejriwal should have been briefed as to whom to meet in Punjab. This only shows the lack of understanding of the political dynamics on the part of the so-called state leaders.
Here is yet another significant aspect. Kejriwal is supposed to be Aam Aadmi. However, police pilot gypsy with its hooter blaring was seen leading Kejriwal’s convoy during his latest visit to Punjab. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal should provide him still more security, the same under which he himself moves around that includes an ambulance and a fire brigade vehicle.