A day after Awaaz-e-Punjab was officially launched as a political platform in Punjab, the forum’s role, direction and the unusually ambivalent attitude of Navjot Singh Sidhu towards BJP remained a central focus of discussion among the political leaders gathered in Punjab Assembly.
With Sidhu refusing to castigate the BJP in as many strong words as he lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal or Congress, even though he took some pot shots, and his failure to give a categorical reply on whether he had resigned from the party or not, there is widespread speculation over the motive behind the forum and its true aims.
The President of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Sukhbir Singh Badal, Friday brushed aside the forum by saying that the Sidhu family was earlier singing paeans to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and were now talking against the same party. “Their only aim is to grab power, they do not have any interest of Punjab in their mind,” said Sukhbir.
The Congress, on the other hand, has voiced its suspicion on the game plan of the forum given the fact that Sidhu has not attacked BJP as strongly as he should have nor he has made his position within the party clear. Sunil Jakhar, former leader of opposition said, “It will not be entirely impossible that Amit Shah has propped up this front to take on the opposition and divide their votes so that the SAD-BJP coalition benefits,” he said.
While Congress Legislative Party leader, Charanjit Singh Channi was of the opinion that Sidhu will damage the Akalis with the new front and will also take away some chunk of votes from BJP, Banga MLA, Tarlochan Singh said a clever ploy by SAD could not be ruled out. “The move may be a precursor to a parting of ways between SAD and BJP just before elections over division of seats and they might get together again after the elections. The same happened in Maharashtra and cannot be ruled out in Punjab too,” he said.
However, speaking to The Indian Express, Simarjeet Singh Bains, independent MLA from Ludhiana and one of the founding members of the forum said that not much should be read into Sidhu’s attitude towards the BJP. “He has been in the party for several years and has been their MP for a dozen odd years so it is natural that his attitude will be different from other parties. But the fact that he has attacked the Akalis with whom the BJP is in alliance makes it clear that the coalition is on his target,” said Bains.
Bains said that after the press conference held on Thursday announcing Awaaz-e-Punjab, they had been besieged with calls by political leaders from across Punjab and that they had identified several places from which the party could select good candidates. “We may not be able to cover the entire 117 assembly constituencies in one go, but we have already identified at least 45 such constituencies where there are candidates of clean image who do not carry any baggage and have very heavy social presence,” said Simarjeet Bains.
When asked how this new front would be different from those which had cropped up in previous elections like the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and Ravi Inder Singh’s Panthic Morcha, Bains said that Awaaz-e-Punjab was different because unlike leaders of some other fronts they had not made politics their business. “Sidhu’s image is clean, our image is clean, Pargat does not face any allegation and we are all committed towards getting good results. After all did anyone have any clue before the 2014 general elections that the Aam Aaadmi Party will get four Lok Sabha seats,” he asked.