October 13, 2021 8:57:52 am
On his second visit to Punjab in 15 days, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal attended a ‘Jagrata’ at the Devi Talab Mandir in Jalandhar, sending out a political message to the Hindu community in Punjab the run up to the Assembly elections due early next year.
Kejriwal arrived in Jalandhar just two weeks after he had visited Ludhiana and met the industrialists of the state besides announcing free medical facilities for everyone if AAP comes to power in the 2022 polls.
Coming on the heels of the Ludhiana visit, Kejriwal’s “religious visit” is being seen as move to reach out to the Hindu community in the state where the AAP has already announced that it will have a Sikh as the chief minister candidate. AAP does not have prominent Hindu leaders amongst its top ranks in the state with the sole exception of Aman Arora, the MLA from Sunam.
Interestingly, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal too had paid obeisance at the Devi Talab Mandir a few days back. Sukhbir had emphasised on communal harmony and brotherhood of Punjabis after visiting the temple. Before visiting Devi Talab Mandir, Sukhbir had also visited the Mata Chintpurni Temple in Una District in Himachal Pradesh. Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu has also posted photographs of his Vaishno Devi visit on his social media handles a day before.
Senior AAP leaders confide that with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not being in a favourable position in Punjab due to the ongoing farmers’ protests and the anti-incumbency that Congress faces due to non-fulfilment of its poll promises and the infighting within the party, there is a vaccum which AAP wishes to occupy. “The Hindu community in the state needs reassurance that the state will be free from any disharmony and will be run on a fair basis. We feel that we can come upto their expectations in this regard,” a senior leader said.
The official line of AAP has been that Kejriwal is visiting the Devi Talab Mandir to pray for the peace and prosperity of Punjab. However, the significance of the visit during the ongoing festival of Navratri and the fact that this comes in the run up to the Assembly polls is not lost.
On Tuesday, after reaching the temple, Kejriwal took blessings at Sri Tripurmalini Shakti Peeth and prayed for “prosperity, peace, mutual harmony and further strengthening of communal harmony” in Punjab and the country. He also attended the ‘Jagran’
Addressing the devotees during the ‘Jagran’, Kejriwal said, “Every wish is fulfilled at the feet of Devi Maa. I have come not as a political leader but as a common devotee to seek blessings of the goddess”. He said it was the shared responsibility “for all of us to make Punjab prosperous and colorful again” and “everyone should rise above the political boundaries and make their contribution”.
He was accompanied by AAP Punjab president Bhagwant Mann, party affairs in-charge Jarnail Singh, co-in-charge Raghav Chadha, Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, MLAs Aman Arora, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, Prof Baljinder Kaur, Meet Hayer, Jai Singh Rodi, Kulwant Pandori, party state general secretary Harchand Singh Barsat, treasurer Neena Mittal, secretary Gagandeep Chadha, and state women’s wing president Rajwinder Kaur among others.
During the run-up to the 2017 Assembly polls, AAP had faced considerable flak when Kejriwal stayed at the house of a Sikh hardliner in Moga. At the time political analysts had commented that a wrong message had been given to the Hindu community and that it had given rise to a perception that AAP was pandering to hardliners in the Sikh community.
Senior leaders of the party were reluctant to comment on record over Kejriwal’s visit to the temple and attempted to portray it as a non-political move. However, speaking on condition of anonymity one state level leader said, “There is no doubt that a strong message is being sent to the Hindu community that AAP stands with them and will work towards ensuring peace and harmony. And when this message is delivered by Kejriwal, whose credibility and unbiased approach is not in any doubt all across the country, then the effect that it has is magnified”.
The repeated visits of the Delhi chief minister, each conveying a significant message – promise of free electricity, free medical treatment or taking part in a Jagrata – has cemented the fact that the party will fight the 2022 polls with Kejriwal in the lead and the CM face playing a lesser role.
“While the party is actively looking for finalising the CM candidate but there is a lot of merit in going ahead with the campaign with a three time CM with a proven track record taking the lead. We will announce the CM candidate as promised but no candidate can match the appeal of Kejriwal. The promises he makes are the ones which he has already fulfilled in New Delhi and therefore his message will have more appeal than that of any CM candidate,” a senior leader said.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal visited the home of former Punjab minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan in Gurdaspur district and offered condolences to the leader’s family on his death.
The AAP national convener had landed at the Amritsar airport, from where he went to Sekhwan’s native village in Gurdaspur.
Sekhwan had passed away on October 6 after prolonged illness. He had joined the AAP on August 26 when Kejriwal visited his house. Before joining AAP, Sekhwan was a senior vice-president of the Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt).
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