WITH Punjab Assembly polls two years away, the Aam Aadmi Party’s massive victory in neighbouring Delhi has become a cause for worry for the ruling Congress and opposition Akalis in the state.
Political parties in Punjab watched Delhi elections closely, with Congress pressing its entire Cabinet and other parties their senior leaders to campaign there.
“AAP was on ventilator in Punjab. It has got a lifeline. It is very rare to get a second chance in politics. But AAP has got it,” said PPCC chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar, whose party has 80 MLAs in a House of 117. He added, “The results mean we cannot sit relaxed. We have to stop believing we know what the people want. We have to go to the ground to know what they want.”
Most Congress leaders The Indian Express spoke to acknowledged that AAP could pose a challenge to them in Punjab’s Assembly elections. State Rural Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa told this newspaper, “Today’s Delhi results make our next two years very crucial. We are performing well. But people have high hopes from us that we should perform even better.”
AAP already has a presence in Punjab. With 19 seats, it is the major opposition party in the state Assembly. It earlier had 20 before H S Phoolka resigned.
Punjab’s political parties are worried because after AAP’s performance in Delhi in December 2013, when Arvind Kejriwal was sworn in as Delhi chief minister for the first time, Punjab had sent four AAP MPs to Parliament in the May 2014 Assembly elections. Thereafter, post 2015, when Kejriwal became the CM the second time, AAP had experienced a groundswell of support in Punjab.
“We have seen how people liked this kind of politics. He had so much of support that we had to pick up several parts from his Delhi manifesto and make promises like doing away with red beacons, VIP culture and others. We cannot sit pretty this time. Look at social media posts from Punjab. The state is actually rejoicing at AAP’s victory,” said a Congress leader from Malwa region, earlier termed the epicentre of AAP.
Meanwhile, the SAD, which was hit by AAP the most in the 2017 Assembly election, is also wary. The party was thinking of recovering space from AAP and Congress in the upcoming elections and trying to stage a comeback. “AAP’s resurgence, if at all, will hit SAD the most. Sukhbir Badal should not raise his hopes very high,” said Jakhar.
Both Congress and SAD say AAP does not have a face in Punjab. SAD’s spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said SAD had nothing to worry. “AAP’s performance in Punjab has been poor, to say the least. It was the main opposition party but failed miserably. It did not win a single election after 2017. People of Punjab have rejected it. They have failed to pick up people’s agenda. And also, they do not have a face,” he added.
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