How big are AAP’s plans for Punjab?
We will win the Punjab assembly elections in 2017, although the victory will not be as easy as it was in the Lok Sabha elections (AAP won four seats). We are in the reckoning now; earlier, no political party considered us a potent force. Once you are in focus, a discrediting campaign is always on. We have to work towards countering that. Hence, we have set up a strong organisational structure.
What is AAP’s strategy for the elections?
We are going to depend on person-to-person contact as in Delhi, where we had completed at least six door-to-door campaigns before the elections. Delhi had 36 lakh household while Punjab has 70 lakh. Our first door-to-door campaign will start in January. We have 23,000 people in charge of polling booths. They will go from door to door, telling people about AAP. We believe that rallies are a good way to show strength but this does not transform into votes. So, for votes, we will try and contact each person in the state.
Who will your candidates be? Are you willing to pick people from other parties?
Picking candidates is the most challenging job. Our criterion will be to select persons after considering three must-haves. These are a clean image, no criminal background, and a good character.
Would you like to be in a grand alliance on the lines of the one among the RJD, the JD(U) and the Congress in Bihar?
We are winning. We will not go with any grand alliance.
Who will your main rival be?
It will be the Badals. We have to remove the Badals, our fight will be against them.
Do you think the party suffered a setback in Punjab after a video that alleged MP Bhagwant Mann was drunk at a bhog?
He was not drunk. Bhagwant Mann is a very good leader, a very good human being. He helps people, people come to listen to him. He has a very good track record of utilising his grants.
The party has suspended two other MPs, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa.
No organisation runs without discipline. The party’s platform is not the media. They were being consulted on each decision the party took but they took extreme steps.
An AAP team made an assessment of Punjab earlier this year. What were your observations?
We were a team that studied all 22 districts for 48 days starting April 15. We found that the party volunteers had no communication with the organisation. No reporting and monitoring system was in place. We submitted a report to the party leadership along with solutions. That helped us build a strong organisational set-up. Now we have someone in charge of every booth. They are briefed frequently and those who are not performing are being phased out.
Some Akali leaders have held AAP responsible for the current unrest in Punjab and demanded an investigation.
How are we responsible? I just want to say the janata has done the investigation on the unrest and the Badals are responsible for this. They will be routed out of Punjab in February 2017.
The AAP has been quiet during the unrest. Was it a calculated move?
We organised 33 rallies in the state recently. Such was our strength that our rally in Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s Lambi constituency had 35,000 people. We kept quiet during the unrest as our party strongly believes that religious matters should be handled by religious heads and not politicians. The matter is being pushed to create a law-and-order situation. It is a planned move. We are providing a model for alternative politics in the state and will not contest elections on any kind of emotion. We indulge in the politics of issues.