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Kejriwal's AAP hit by in-fighting in Punjab

"Patty Villalpando" (2020-05-04)

metal <strongswing<\/strong> set outdoor fun slide kids play game" style="max-width:400px;float:left;padding:10px 10px 10px 0px;border:0px;">One suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP in Punjab has threatened to switch sides or float a party. Another such MP will next month form a forum for volunteers who believe in the ‘right brand of politics.' 

And Swaraj Abhiyan - floated by expelled leader Yogendra Yadav and others - is looking up to these two Members of Parliament for ‘alternative politics' in Punjab. 

Rebellion is proving to be a spoiler in AAP's preparations for the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab, which are in full Washington DC swing set assembly and drawing impressive crowds. 

The AAP does not see a challenger in the Congress, which it says is a divided house in Punjab

AAP in August suspended Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi and Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa for alleged anti-party activities. Faridkot MP Prof Sadhu Singh has also said Yadav should be back in the party. 

"AAP is not the Bhagavad Gita or Sri Guru Granth Sahib that we cannot leave. Is se to achhe Akali-BJP aur Congress the. I don't mind if our actions bring them back. All options from floating a party to joining one are open," Khalsa told Mail Today. 

Gandhi has decided to form an Aam Aadmi Volunteers' Forum on October 4. 

"I will not float any party for now, but I'm keenly observing developments in Delhi and Punjab. I will decide on the future course in the next few months depending upon how much force we gather to pursue the right brand of politics," he said. 

AAP did really well in Punjab in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It got a 25 per cent vote share, and all four winners were from the state. 

The fourth MP, Bhagwant Singh Mann (Sangrur), is seen as a close aide of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. 

The 117 Assembly seats in Punjab come under 13 Lok Sabha constituencies. The actions of two-three may not be a game-changer but can be influential. 

Party leader Durgesh Pathak said: "They (the two MPs) are free to do whatever they want. The party's disciplinary committee will speak to them and take a final call. Our rallies are drawing huge crowds. We're set to win." 

The Aam Aadmi Party in August suspended Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi and Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa for alleged anti-party activities

After their expulsion, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Anand Kumar have formed Swaraj Abhiyan - a political movement that is supporting the two suspended MPs. 

"The people of Punjab want to get rid of the corrupt and mafia rule of BJP- Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). They don't want to go back to Congress. But AAP's Delhi leadership is likely to foist same old discredited leadership. Our colleagues in Swaraj Abhiyan look up to the two MPs to provide a true alternative," Yadav said. 

In July, the party had also expelled Punjab leader Daljit Singh, when he spoke against senior leader Sanjay Singh and Punjab state convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur. After AAP's historic victory in Delhi early this year, Assembly elections in Punjab would indicate whether the party has the wherewithal to spread. 

The party's student wing's failure to win even a single panel seat in the Delhi University Students' Union elections early this month is not good news. 

Responding to Yadav's support, Gandhi said: "Many people in Punjab are not happy with the Aam Aadmi Party. Had Swaraj Abhiyan been a political party, it could have been an option for many, including me. I'm still an AAP MP. For the time being, I'm going to stay with the party but would not compromise on its founding principles." 

Unlike Khalsa, Gandhi does not want to end up helping the SAD-BJP combine or Congress. 

"They are our principle enemies. Aam Aadmi Party is not. I don't want to end up, by our actions, helping our enemies," he said. 

Khalsa has no allergy to other parties. 

"Each party undergoes changes. Congress has had a good run. BJP also had a good reputation during Vajpayee's times. Let them first expel me. I will move accordingly," he said. 

Barring Punjab, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were a disaster for AAP, which saw most of its 400-odd candidates lose their deposits.

AAP sees itself in a direct fight with the ruling SAD-BJP combine, trying to capitalise on anti-incumbency. The party does not see a challenger in the Congress, which it says is a divided house. 

But AAP's own house is not in perfect shape either. Yadav says AAP is unravelling in Punjab, not because of what Swaraj Abhiyan or anyone else is doing. 

"It is because of the misdeeds of Delhi Durbar. I suspect that by removing the existing leaders with spine, AAP's Delhi leadership is preparing the ground for a large scale import of middle and top level leaders from Congress and Akali into AAP," he said.


Opponents rejoice as AAP faces rebellion 

By Manjeet Sehgal in Chandigarh 

The Congress's Captain Amarinder Singh termed the AAP leaders "clowns".

The BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal combine and the Congress have reasons to smile as the Aam Aadmi Party is fighting rebellion within its ranks. 

The party, which got a 24 per cent vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has had to expel and suspend key leaders. 

Though the Congress still lists the Aam Aadmi Party as a competitor, it seems to have slipped into a comfort zone after the turmoil in AAP's state unit. 

"It will be foolish to ignore a party which sent four out of 13 Lok Sabha MPs from the state. However, the way the party leadership is treating its elected members, has weakened the organisation. Its followers are confused .We will contest election with our strength and have come a long way and are equipped to deal with the opponent parties," Leader of Opposition in Punjab Sunil Jakhar told Mail Today. 

Senior Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh, who earlier this year had said that Punjab's policy was usually bi-polar, and the 2017 Assembly elections may turn out to be a contest between Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party with the Akali Dal and BJP remaining on the fringes, has now termed AAP leaders as clowns. 

"If you really want to see what they are up to, just go to Delhi and see what they have done there by making people's life miserable. People there are regretting over having voted them to power," Captain Amarinder Singh said. 

BJP leaders also see no political threat in AAP, which has lost much of its grandeur in the state after the expulsion of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. 

Punjab BJP chief Kamal Sharma though admitted that the party cannot ignore AAP's success in 2014 general elections but they (BJP) had never imagined that AAP will lose its sheen like that. 

"While it took years for a division in other parties, AAP split vertically within months. Punjab voters are wise enough to distinguish between chalk and cheese. The infighting has left their supporters confused," Sharma said. 

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had recently mocked the AAP, saying that the party which can't handle four MPs will never be able to handle Punjab. 

"Though infighting is an internal matter of AAP, it is a pity that a party that dreams of winning the Punjab Assembly polls in 2017 cannot handle its MPs. It is a mockery to talk about forming a government in Punjab," CM Badal said. 

Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also ridiculed AAP for dreaming of power in Punjab. She said that AAP had managed to mislead the Punjab voters once but they are not in a position to repeat in future.