Assembly polls: No longer AAP ‘pehle’ in Punjab

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With the Punjab Assembly elections rounding the corner, the political landscape is getting more twisted day by day, with AAP in the limelight.

The once influential CPI as well as the BSP, which had a promising start, were decimated since 1997, with both parties unable to win any seat since 2002. The question being raised now is whether the three-year-old party facing the two oldest parties in India would soon implode. Would it then be return to the bipolar party system with political power remaining with either Akali Dal-BJP combine or the Congress?

As a self-proclaimed movement party, committed to clean and principled politics with politically novice but well meaning candidates, AAP raised some hope among the people.

Since then the party has had a roller-coastal ride, suffering reverses soon after the unexpected success. Two of party MPs along with many volunteers turned rebels following the expulsion of the founding leaders. The party lost two assembly by-elections badly, and chose not to contest the third one. In an effort to revive the party, it launched ‘Punjab Mission Plan 2017’, which led to a large-scale purge of all the rebellious elements in a major organizational shakeup. Chhotepur, a party-hopping veteran politician belonging to numerically strong and landowning Jat Sikh community, was made the state convener.

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But in a state where region along with religion, language and caste have always been a significant factor in determining the electoral choices since Partition, the AAP leadership apparently committed a blunder by nominating the candidates in a manner that gave an impression that the tickets were decided at the behest of Singh and Pathak. The sting done on Chhotepur in order to get rid of him as he raised voice against the nominated candidates was widely considered a dishonorable act of deceit against a rustic rural Punjabi with a long unsullied career.

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Rebellious Chhotepur with his supporters from within the party accused on the Delhi based leadership of not respecting the culture and traditions of Punjab. The earlier incident when the party symbol of broom was depicted along with the Golden Temple on the cover page of the AAP youth manifesto was raised as proof.

A slew of charges ranging from sexual to financial misconducts against AAP observers are also being made with generous help by Badal owned channels. Some of these rebels, now busy with Chhotepur-led Parivartan Yatra, are expected to join the fourth front consisting of newly formed Swaraj party as well as Awaam-E-Punjab.

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Clearly, AAP seems to have lost most of its initiative. Kejriwal needs to restart his campaign and woo back voters who sympathise with AAP core values but are frustrated with scandals engulfing the party.