RAISING THE stakes for the Assembly elections in Punjab, AAP leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Tuesday that people of the state should cast their votes on February 4 “assuming that Arvind Kejriwal will be the Chief Minister of Punjab”.
Sisodia, however, added that “whoever becomes the Chief Minister, it will be Kejriwal’s responsibility to ensure that all promises made during the election are fulfilled”.
While AAP leaders in Delhi and Punjab remained ambiguous about whether Kejriwal would join the election fray, Sisodia’s comments drew strong reactions from the ruling SAD and the Congress in the state.
While Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal described the remarks as part of a “conspiracy to foist Kejriwal on Punjab”, Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh said that the AAP leader had an “obsessive and abominable lust for Punjab’s chief ministerial position”.
Sisodia dropped the K word while addressing a rally at Balongi village in Mohali, when an AAP member on stage asked who would be the Chief Minister if the party was voted to power.
“Ek bhai ne abhi poocha ki AAP ka CM kaun hoga. Aap yeh maanke chalo ki Punjab ka mukhyamantri toh Arvind Kejriwal hone wala hai. Jo bhi mukhyamantri banein, lekin yeh Arvind Kejriwal ki zimmedari hai ki jo bhi vaade aapse karke ja rahe hai voh poore karvayeinge (A brother just asked me who will be AAP’s CM. You should assume that Arvind Kejriwal is going to be the CM of Punjab.
Whoever becomes the CM, it will be the responsibility of Arvind Kejriwal to ensure that all promises made to you are fulfilled),” said Sisodia.
“We will not leave Punjab and sit in Delhi… You should vote assuming you are voting to make Arvind Kejriwal the Chief Minister. Vote in the name of Arvind Kejriwal,” said Sisodia.
AAP leaders in Punjab said that Sisodia’s remarks were in line with the party’s strategy to make the prospect of Kejriwal becoming the chief minister sound real. “Our internal surveys show that if Kejriwal is projected as the CM face, AAP gets a clean sweep,” said a party leader.
In Delhi, party leaders maintained that Kejriwal has been the “undisputed” face of the party and that for all polls, be it in Punjab and Goa next month or Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in December, he would continue to “lead the charge singlehandedly”.
“During the 2014 general polls and all assembly elections around and after that time, the BJP sought votes for their local units in the name of Narendra Modi. Did that mean he was going to step down from his position as PM and become the CM face in each such state? Then why is Kejriwal being repeatedly tipped to be the Punjab CM? In response to Capt Amarinder Singh’s challenge to contest from any seat in Punjab, Kejriwal has already responded by saying that Singh should fight the AAP Punjab candidates,” said a senior AAP functionary, on condition of anonymity.
Kejriwal and the AAP leadership have repeatedly maintained that he will not “desert” Delhi. Sources said the party had deferred announcing a CM face for Punjab as it apprehends internal bickering between senior leaders once a candidate is named.
Party leaders also said that Sisodia’s statement was part of a strategic move at a time when the poll battle had stagnated following months of campaigning. “Sisodia’s statement just whipped up a storm and for the next few days, Kejriwal and the issue will continue trending on social media and become a hot talking point,” said a leader.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, meanwhile, described Kejriwal as “a professional agitationist” who would put the state on a collision course with the Centre.
“The cat is out of the bag. Kejriwal has been salivating to become chief minister of Punjab since two years now and finally the party has made his announcement after clearing all roadblocks,” he said.
“First, party state convenor and senior-most leader Suchha Singh Chottepur was thrown out of the party as he was a well-known Sikh face and could have posed a challenge to Kejriwal. After this, the party scuttled the chances of Bhagwant Mann and Himmat Singh Shergill by making them contest against me and Bikram Singh Majithia, respectively,” said Badal.
Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder said the Delhi Chief Minister “has been playing unabashedly with the sentiments of the people of Punjab since he stepped on its soil”.
Amarinder also took to Twitter and posted: “After months of beating around the bush, truth of Arvind Kejriwal and his nefarious ambitions comes out! What a sneaky little fellow!”
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