Even Before Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could formalise its presumed relationship with Navjot Singh Sidhu, an internal party exercise to get feedback from its volunteers at places in 26 places in Punjab Wednesday revealed resentment against the cricketer-turned-politician.
Senior leaders of the party who did not want to be identified told The Indian Express that party volunteers at most of these places expressed reservations about getting Sidhu on board AAP.
The feedback comes a day after the party’s manifesto committee chief of Punjab, Kanwar Sandhu put up a video on his Facebook that Sidhu would have to mould himself according to the principles of AAP.
He had also said there were concerns in “some sections” if AAP, being a secular party, would benefit from Sidhu, who has long been associated with a party that professes Hindutva. Sandhu also said AAP would have to assign the Sidhu couple a role as per their capabilities and also ensure that the morale of party cadre is not affected.
AAP had organised a series of 26 meetings in the Assembly segments of Malwa, Doaba and Majha areas in the state. The meetings, scheduled already, were to zero in on party’s candidate from respective segments.
Sources said Sidhu’s prospects of joining AAP and steer the party to victory as chief ministerial candidate dominated the discussion in most of the meetings, especially in segments like Sangrur and Dhuri, part of party MP Bhagwant Mann’s Lok Sabha constituency.
Watch Video: Navjot Singh Sidhu Quits Rajya Sabha: What Next
“The volunteers resented the move to take him on board. While a few cited his association with a saffron party subscribing to a different ideology as his negative point, others spoke against him for his videos in which he made fun of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal. We are rather shocked to get this kind of feedback about him,” said a senior AAP leader.
He said the feedback is being sent to Kejriwal. The party does not want to annoy its volunteers, who are the backbone of AAP.
More meetings are scheduled in other Assembly segments in the coming days in which the volunteers would be suggesting names of probable candidates from their respective segment.
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Today’s feedback is reminiscent of a similar situation when former People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) chief Manpreet Badal was in parleys with AAP.
His entry was blocked when the volunteers opposed the move to take him in the party fold tooth and nail. Manpreet had then merged his PPP with Congress. His joining the Congress instead of AAP is still considered a loss for AAP as Manpreet is held in good stead by people of Punjab and AAP has been grappling to address the issue of lack of a befitting CM candidate.
A senior leader of AAP told The Indian Express that Sidhu had already agreed to join AAP without any precondition. He said he did not even want to contest Assembly elections but campaign for the party extensively and is likely to be made an office-bearer of campaign committee. They said the part is wary of handing its reigns in Punjab to a leader who is not accepted by its volunteers.
Sources said Mann, who is an aspirant for the CM’s candidate, has already been assured that Sidhu would not be a CM face. AAP state convenor Sucha Singh Chottepur has already given a statement that AAP would not accept anybody who wants to join the party as a CM candidate.
AAP TAKING LEGAL OPINION
With suspended SAD MLA Pargat Singh and Sidhu’s namesake wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu likely to switch over to AAP, the party is taking a legal opinion on when the duo should resign so that their quitting does not necessitate a byelection. “SAD-BJP are in power. We do not want them to announce any byelection. We are happy that the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has suspended Pargat. This only helps his case,” said an AAP leader.