Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

AAP emerges as serious player in Punjab

R Venkataraman | September 13, 2016 9:32 am Print
This has rattled the ruling Akali Dal (SAD) so much so that during a recent farmers' rally in Moga, the state government is said to have ordered buses and other heavy vehicles off the road
AAP, Kejriwal

The Aam Admi Party (AAP), which has of late reduced itself to a butt of ridicule, is still seen to be impacting the poll-bound state of Punjab. Despite the numerous controversies, sex scandals, corruption among his party men and Legislative Assembly members in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal’s rallies seem to be attracting respectable crowds.

This has rattled the ruling Akali Dal (SAD) so much so that during a recent farmers’ rally in Moga, the state government is said to have ordered buses and other heavy vehicles off the road.

The Akali Dal seems to believe that the AAP, rather than the traditional rival Congress, has emerged as the main challenger, despite the fact that the AAP is still not that known in the state.

The AAP, too, is not rid of controversies in the state where it is testing its strength on its own, without any alliance. Party convener in the state Sucha Singh Chhotepur was to be sacked from the party. The AAP also failed to come to an understanding with cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose announcement of resigning from the BJP and joining the AAP gave initially a fillip to AAP but turned out to be a damp squib.

In a huge embarrassment to the party, its Punjab MP Bhagwant Mann allegedly showed up at some rallies and even in Parliament in a drunk state.

Nevertheless, Kejriwal seems to believe that his position in Punjab in 2016 is like that of Narendra Modi in the country in 2014. He announced to continue with the doles of free power, subsidised aata, dal for the farmers, etc. He also proposed to increase the state dole of Rs 15,000 given for the marriage of a girl child to Rs 21, 000.

Yet, it is not going to be a cake walk for the AAP as Kejriwal is still seen as an “outsider” and his sacking of Chhotepur, the most visible Sikh face of the party, would certainly take its own toll in the elections. Kejriwal declares in rally after rally that AAP would win 110 of the 117 Assembly seats but the ground reality, especially on the organisational front, this optimism is not reflected. At the best, the AAP is no pushover yet and is capable of damaging the chances of both the Congress and the SAD-BJP in at least about 50 constituencies. Going by the arithmetic of wins in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the AAP is a contender in about 45-50 seats, but Lok Sabha wins does not mean that any party would win all of its Assembly segments in a particular parliamentary constituency.

Although it is too early predict the outcome of the next year elections, the AAP is seen well poised to challenge both the main contenders — the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress.

R Venkataraman
R Venkataraman
(The writer is ex-accredited correspondent of Supreme Court of India, Parliament of India, Central Government (PIB) and ex-member Press Council of India.)
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