Punjab Elections: Malwa voters still with AAP? – ET


SANGRUR/BATHINDA: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may be embroiled in sex and corruption scanals in Delhi and elsewhere, but in the prosperous Malwa region of Punjab, Kejriwal still seems to rule.

In Bagha Purana near Moga in Malwa region, Malkhan Singh has put giant Arvind Kejriwal hoardings on his auto repair shop. “Vote this time is for Jhaadu…we need to sweep out the Badals regime,” he says.

Travelling through Malwa from Bhatinda to Sangrur and up to Ludhiana, AAP’s popularity seems to be still high despite controversies like its convener Sucha Singh Chotepur being sacked and talks with Navjot Singh Sidhu collapsing. The fight seems to be between AAP and Congress, as the latter looking to be in for a late upsurge.

AAP is alive to the changing scenario. Kejriwal is set to be active in Punjab and could spend 50 days in Punjab in batches of four-five days from November till the elections and hold nearly 100 rallies, AAP’s campaign committee chief Bhagwant Mann told ET. The party is enthused over positive response to Kejriwal’s recent visit to Delhi’s Rakabganj gurudwara as a commoner.

Malwa region, which accounts for 69 out of the 117 seats and is essentially the determiner, seems AAP’s best bet. Its main faces – Mann, the MP from Sangrur, H.S. Phoolka, the candidate from Dakha and AAP convener Gurpreet Ghuggi are all focussed on areas in the heart of Malwa. “AAP is popular…especially among youngsters. Most of them want to vote for Ruby, the woman AAP candidate here. AAP is in disarray with divisions but we hate Badal regime much more,” Avtar Singh and Bikram Singh in Bhatinda said.

AAP’s CM face announcement could be a turning point. Top sources in the party told ET that Mann wants his name to be announced in November. “Mann says people already call him CM Saheb,” a senior party source said. The party however could well announce nobody as CM face before polls, a top party functionary told ET. AAP feels none of its big faces – Mann, Phoolka or Gurpreet Ghuggi – have appeal across Punjab among all communities.


“Declaring a face has no benefit for us, only drawbacks as there could be a tussle,” the functionary says. While Mann is popular but seen as unpredictable in his utterances, Phoolka is measured but he has not campaigned outside his constituency. “With Mann as CM – AAP gets 70 seats. Without Mann as CM – we get 35 seats. That is Akali Dal’s internal survey,” a source close to Mann said. If Congress announces Amarinder as CM face, it could force AAP’s hand too.

AAP apprehends collusion between Akalis and Congress, saying the former may transfer its votes to Congress to stop AAP. “Akalis are telling voters – don’t vote for us if you don’t wish to, but don’t vote for AAP. Vote for Congress then, ” Phoolka says. He says the same happened in Lok Sabha 2014 elections when he lost the Ludhiana seat to a Congress candidate. The recent closure of a corruption case against Captain Amarinder Singh by state vigilance is seen as a indicator towards the ‘tie-up’.
Insiders say AAP is looking at a similar understanding now with Navjot Singh Sidhu’s new front – though earlier talks collapsed between AAP and Sidhu on the CM issue and Sidhu’s insistence that both he and his wife would contest. “If the Sidhu couple who are backed by Bains brothers and former hockey captain Pargat Singh back AAP through an understanding, it will tilt scales for us,” an AAP insider says. There still may be a twist there.