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Let’s start with a clean slate? Pehle AAP!

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Delhi Elections 2015 and AAP

by Harshmeet Singh

Aam Aadmi Party’s landslide win is an indication of sorts that the people of Delhi have risen above the politics of caste, community, religion among several other things. The write-up aims to observe the expectations and transition of the soon-coming-to-power government.

Subhash is having trouble holding back his smile. A resident of Delhi’s Patel Nagar area, he grins every time the TV screen flashes the trends in the ongoing vote count of the Delhi assembly elections. He was never prouder of his vote. Amazingly, he is not alone. Millions of Delhities who preferred keeping a ‘safe distance’ from politics are cheering for the Aam Aadmi Party. For the two year old party, pulling the common man into politics and charging up his emotions is a much bigger achievement than the landslide victory in Delhi that it is headed towards.

Where do we head from here? Delhi would finally have a Chief Minister. A Chief Minister who, by the admissions of his own party leaders, would come with a fevicol to remain stuck on his seat for the next five years. A number of experts have remarked that the Arvind Kejriwal has mellowed down considerably as compared to his last tenure as the CM during which he launched a dharna against the Central Government and slept on the streets on a couple of chilly January nights. Having said that, it won’t do justice to AAP if people start expecting overnight results such as clean air in Delhi or a Police department that has Singham to solve the cases or even a Yamuna clean enough to see your reflection. Perhaps that is why the constitution lays down a tenure of five years for the Government, and not a couple of months.

If there is a lesson in AAP’s victory, it is ‘How to change your liability into your strength’. With the opponents taking potshots at Kejriwal for ‘running away’ in a matter of 49 days, the AAP was happy to bring a flashback of its 49-day tenure and remind people of what the party was capable of delivering. Amidst the permanent face off with different authorities including the Delhi Police and the Central Government, the party was also able to remain in the headlines for reasons such as deflated electricity bills, stress on setting up night shelters and the launch of an anti corruption helpline.

If the AAP’s previous stint in the capital is anything to go by, it won’t take long for the touts to desert the Government offices and this time, for a much longer duration. For a political party which takes pride in its ideals of swaraj, the AAP has set up for itself an ominous target of organizing mohalla sabhas to connect with the people at the grassroots. If there is one aspect which remained untouched during AAP’s last tenure, it was women security. Pointers mentioned in their election manifesto, such as appointing woman marshals in the public buses, if implemented on the grounds, have the potential of transforming Delhi into a world class city. Those who would witness the oath taking ceremony on 14th February at the Ramleela Maidan would have a feeling of déjà vu. This time, hopefully, the dream would not end soon!

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)