Suspended from the party, Kanwar Sandhu, one of the rebel Aam Aadmi Party legislators, has demanded that post the disastrous performance of the party in Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, the entire state unit leadership, including president Bhagwant Mann, Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema, core committee chief Budh Ram, and campaign committee chief Aman Arora, should resign from their posts.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sandhu said that Mann’s win in Sangrur could not take away the fact that this was a ‘pyrrhic victory’ as 12 out of 13 party candidates lost their security deposits. “In Congress, the state unit presidents across the country have put in their resignations. Even party national president Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign. The AAP state leadership should also resign and make way for a more autonomous set up, which takes into account the views of the party workers in Punjab,” he said.
Sandhu said that names of five candidates were announced six months before the polls. Despite the early bird advantage, barring Mann all lost their deposits. “We (dissident MLAs) have always been maintaining that organisational set up in Punjab was not autonomous and was dictated by Delhi leadership. The Leader of Opposition too was imposed on us and the MLAs of the state were not taken into confidence before taking that decision,” he said.
Sources said that there have been dissenting voices within the state unit of AAP after the poor show in the Lok Sabha polls. “There have been complaints that the entire focus of the party was towards ensuring the win of Mann, which is reflected in the assembly segment wise results of party MLAs,” a leader said.
In comparison, Baljinder Kaur got only 6,944 votes in Bathinda Rural segment from where Rupinder Kaur Ruby is the MLA. In Talwandi Sabo, Baljinder Kaur’s own constituency as an MLA, the party could manage only 9,253 votes. The AAP candidate got only 24,272 votes in Budhlada, the constituency of core commitee chief Budh Ram, even as the Akali candidate, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, got more than 60,000 votes and the Congress 52,117 votes.
Both, Sandhu and Sukhpal Khaira, who quit AAP and floated his own Punjab Ekta Party, said that the claims of Mann that he had called both of them on phone and spoken about unity of AAP was totally wrong. “Mann spoke in generic terms with me and asked for help in private member bills in Parliament and he spoke to Sukhpal in same terms,” said Sandhu.
Khaira said that it was wrong for Mann to claim that he had spoken to him about ‘unity’. “There is no question of any return to AAP and there will also not be any possibility of any tie up with AAP if they enter into any sport of seat sharing arrangement with Congress for the Delhi assembly elections,” he said.
Reacting to Sandhu’s comments, Sunam MLA Aman Arora said, “I respect Sandhu but he should remember that he is a suspended member of the party. I do not want to get into confrontation with him but these free advices do not hold any relevance,” he said.
Arora added that he does not know what transpired between Sandhu and Mann during their phone conversation. “My mandate as chairman of campaign committee was only for the duration of the polls and I did my best. Elections are over and the position of chairman and members of the committee are no longer in existence,” he said.
Cheema said that Sandhu should first talk about how many votes he has managed to get for AAP from his own constituency, Kharar. “He has no right to ask for resignation of anybody. He has fared badly in his constituency. He is still indulging in anti-party activities. Sandhu should come back to the party and work for it after getting his suspension withdrawn. Party will soon introspect the causes of the performance in polls and take remedial measures,” he said.