Updated: February 12, 2021 11:01:48 am
As farm protests rage on in Punjab, the main Opposition Aam Aadmi Party claims it has learnt from the “mistakes” it made in 2017 and, for the Assembly elections in 2022, would have a CM face from the “3 crore population of Punjab” on whom “every person of the state will feel proud”.
AAP’s Punjab in-charge Raghav Chadha told the Indian Express that the farm laws would define the next year politically, and while the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) were now “hated”, the Congress Chief Minister knew of the farm laws back in August 2019 – something that the party intends to take to the people.
In the 2017 Punjab campaign – the party’s first big push outside of Delhi where it had its government – the AAP seemed to have the momentum heading into the elections. It, however, fell very short of the numbers required to form the government, becoming the principal opposition instead.
“Its not just one or two weaknesses. There were several weaknesses. There were not just one or two mistakes, but several blunders that the AAP committed. I concede and acknowledge those. But we have become wiser. We have gained experience and learnt from our blunders,” Chadha said.
Chadha said that people of Punjab, in 2017, told AAP to wait for a couple of years, just like “a 16-year-old who applies for a driver’s license” is told to. “They said, first you get a learners’ license, and then you get a permanent one. The people said you are new to the administrative political set up, learn a thing or two, play the role of a constructive Opposition. Now they believe that we are wiser, we are mature, played a decent role of a constructive opposition, and they see us as the only hope,” he added.
One of those perceived weaknesses of the AAP was that the primary face of the party for the Assembly elections in Punjab, Arvind Kejriwal, was already the Chief Minister of Delhi, something that exists to this day. The party, Chadha said, has taken cognisance of the issue, and would have a face to fight those of (Akali Dal president and former deputy chief minister) Sukhbir Badal and (Chief Minister) Captain Amarinder Singh.
“The AAP will give a face and a candidate who will be next CM of Punjab. That person will be from the 3 crore population of Punjab. That person will be considered to be the aan, baan, and shaan of Punjab on which every person of the state will feel proud,” Chadha said.
He said that both the BJP and the SAD were now on the “fringes” and “hated” despite Akali MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the Union cabinet. “The BJP is not even on the fringes. It is a non entity now. Forget seats, I don’t think they’ll get even a few percentage points of votes. As far as Akali Dal is concerned, people of Punjab now hate it. Harsimrat Badal’s participation in the Cabinet when these three farm laws were being debated and discussed has acted as the eruption of a volcano,” Chadha said.
The AAP in-charge said that Amarinder Singh was “seen as someone who has outsourced his governance to bureaucrats.” “He is regarded as a failure as a CM. On top of it, he was part of the drafting committee of these laws, and he knew them back in August 2019. He is seen as someone who has been tried and there has been a bad experience. So people now say we will give AAP a chance,” he said.
On Amarinder Singh and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi leading a farmers’ rally, and with the Congress publicly standing by the farmers, AAP leader said that this only happened “when they saw the tide was turning.” “They realized the anger that the people have, the anger of the farmer. They never thought their connivance with the BJP in drafting and passing these laws would be out in the open. The way Akalis realised that they were being exposed and therefore (Harsimrat) had to resign, the Congress also had to do this optics,” Chadha said.
In the last five years, the AAP in Punjab has also been hit by discord within the party, with MLAs abandoning ship, and leadership struggles. Chadha said that the organization of the party was dissolved last year and has been “built again from scratch over the past one year.” “As far as reaching out to good people who left us or good people in other political parties is concerned, all that is being done aggressively,” he said.
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