The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday announced the names of five candidates from Punjab for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The dissident group of MLAs have trashed the list saying that the candidates will not be able to save their security deposits.
The names of the five candidates were announced at a press conference by the chairman of the core committee of the party’s state unit, Budhlada MLA, Budh Ram with the Talwandi Sabo MLA, Baljinder Kaur in attendance. Budh Ram said that the names of the candidates had been decided in the meeting of the core committee. He also said that the party has appointed Baljinder Kaur as the Chief Spokesperson of the state unit.
Sitting MPs Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh will be fielded from their respective constituencies, Sangrur and Faridkot. Dr Ravjot Singh will be the candidate from the reserved seat of Hoshiarpur. He had contested the 2017 Vidhan Sabha election from Sham Churasi constituency. Narinder Singh Shergill will contest from Anandpur Sahib. He was the party candidate from Mohali during the assembly polls. Majha zone in-charge, Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, will be the candidate from Amritsar.
Budh Ram said that the names of the rest of the candidates will be announced in the month of November. When asked if the announcement of the names without the consent of the dissidents would give be a setback to unity efforts, Budh Ram said: “It is the demand of time that names of candidates be announced. Rest is up to them (dissidents). This does not mean they are sidelined. They are always welcome.”
However, both MLAs were clear that the names once announced will not be changed even if dissident MLAs had objections to them. Budh Ram criticised supporters of the dissident MLAs for threatening Jagraon MLA, Sarabjit Kaur Manuke, on social media. Manuke was heading the AAP panel for unity talks with the dissident group.
‘Setback to unity’
Declaring the “unilateral declaration of names of candidates” to be a setback to the process of unity within AAP, former Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Khaira, launched a bitter attack at the Punjab party leadership. Calling them “Delhi loyalists”, Khaira said that in case they went ahead with one-sided list of candidates the party will see the contestants lose the security deposits and this included the “star candidates”, an oblique reference to Bhagwant Mann. “The announcement comes on a day when we had decided that the ad-hoc political affairs committee of our group would be disbanded and we were to ask the AAP Delhi loyalists to disband their core committee so that we could talk about unity. However, now all political options are open to us. They have taken a hopeless decision. They were called to Delhi yesterday and this list was cleared by Delhi leadership, yet they say we are autonomous. They are imposing dictatorship on people of Punjab,” said Khaira.
The former LoP said that his group foresees a grand alliance with like minded parties which include the Panthic parties, BSP and Bains brothers in order to “wipe out the Akalis and Congress from Punjab”.
“We will think on these lines. I want to tell these people (AAP leaders) that you are heading towards complete crash in Punjab,” he said.
Khaira said that was no urgency to announce the names as the Lok Sabha are six months away. “They have given a signal to us by announcing these candidates that the doors for unity are now closed forever. This is a joke played on the electorate of AAP. However, we are extending out ultimatum to them by one week from November 1 to November 8. We are doing this in larger interests of Punjab and not because of these narrow-minded people,” he said. Spokesperson for the dissident MLAs, Kanwar Sandhu, said that it seemed that there was no sincerity in unity efforts of the opposite party. “They did not even deem fit to consult us. We have still extended the date for reconciliation because the cadres is waiting for results of unity effort. We will announce the names of office bearers, including district presidents and overseas heads, after November 8,” he said.