Where is adventurism leading the Aam Aadmi Party? It was billed to emerge victorious in Punjab and provide a government which people would have never experienced. This victory, its convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal thought was his much before the commencement of elections. A victory in Punjab would have given the fledging party a national representation to challenge the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Same was thought about Goa. It would have also meant an alternative politics, away from the rundown system that prevails. The AAP attracted lot of people; young and old, idealists and pragmatists, political and social activists and the youth, besides the common people. But within weeks, the way the leadership including Kejriwal acted belied their hopes. Their hubris saw the dreams lie in dust.
Now not only in Delhi where the AAP and its only top leaders are well encircled and deep into trouble on charges of corruption , Punjab offers a study where the self inflicted wounds are festering. It is well nigh difficult to keep a count as to how many well meaning public figures either left the party or were sidelined and forgotten or even thrown out of the party in an unceremonious ways. They literally were left on the sidewalks. Punjab had given the AAP a footing as it elected four members out of 13 to the Lok Sabha. It was a rare phenomenon, only in 1989, a new party had cornered majority of the Lok Sabha seats. But that was the time of militancy.
First victims of Kejriwal’s haughty style were the two of four Lok Sabha members. Cleverly well known social activists Dharamvir Gandhi who defeated a powerful popular Congress minister and a former diplomat Harinder Singh Khalsa who had earlier been member of the Lok Sabha, were suspended. There had been no formal show cause notice or charges to which they could respond. They are hung in the mid air for the last two years. Gandhi, who had been active both inside the house and outside in Punjab says that the AAP rose out of the anti corruption movement, answering the hopes and aspirations of struggling India, but it had no ideology, no sound alterative politics or programmes. Only anti BJP and anti Congress plank to ride to power and then indulge in sheer adventurism. “We are witnessing no holds barred endless power games”, he says.
Later, Punjab convener, a former Akali minister Sucha Singh Chhotepur was the shown the door on what now proved to be trumped up charges of accepting money of promise to allot a ticket for elections . Some kind of sting operation which the conspirator now disowns led to his political assassination. Later, finding the atmosphere too suffocating, several doctors, academicians and teachers besides lawyers have quit. There was no matching leader to the popular Congress leader like Capt Amarinder Singh to lead the campaign. Kejriwal was keen to be project himself as the chief ministerial candidate, but was scared as an outsider, and a Bania from Haryana would not be acceptable. And, he would allow no one to emerge as his alternative. Result: a party aspiring to capture 90 of out the 117 seats has to be happy with just 22 seas.
For Kejriwal it is becoming difficult to keep his flock together. Faced with endless troubles and unfocussed in Delhi chief minister, his efforts to rule the roost in Punjab are being stonewalled all the time. This week Kejriwal unceremoniously removed the present convener comedian-turned-politician Gurpreet Singh Waraich “Ghuggi’. He brought in another comedian-turned-politician and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann as its new president of the Punjab unit. Kejriwal also announced to those present at the meeting that Mann “will not drink now, and will be sacked if he does”. What a price to be in politics!
Now Ghuggi has quit the party along with four other leaders. An upset Ghuggi finds his removal “very awkward”. He alleges Kejriwal has succumbed to the pressure from Mann. He counted all that he had done during the elections and had set aside his movie projects. Upkar Singh Sandhu who contested Lok Sabha by-election from Amritsar has been sacked. This has set a chain reaction; the party’s chief whip in the Punjab assembly, Sukhpal Singh Khaira has quit his post despite Kejriwal asking him to continue. Khaira, an ambitious former Congress MLA was hoping to become leader of the opposition in the assembly and when that position was given to H. S. Phoolka, he was hoping to become president. He expressed his anguish: “I would like to as ordinary volunteer.”
Kejriwal has also disappointed a large number of NRI supporters who had given the party huge sums of money and have termed Mann “a greedy and narcissistic”. Earlier, in a communiqué sent to Kejriwal after the results in March, the NRI supporters had blamed AAP’s state in-charge Sanjay Singh and observer Durgesh Pathak for party’s defeat. They have now finally quit their posts.
Coming events are casting their shadows. The power struggle is rendering its existence worthless. Rumour mills are active telling that the party is about to split. That may not happen too soon. If AAP stops devouring its own progeny and concentrates on an alternative politics and plays the role of constructive opposition, there shall be many chances to make meaningful contribution in Punjab.