Nobody gave them a fighting chance in 2014 and yet the Aam Aadmi Party romped home home winning four of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. It went on to win 20 seats in the state Assembly polls in 2017. However much has changed since then. Several of its leaders have parted ways with the party and some within the AAP have turned rebels. Till 2017, party’s campaign used to be governed from Delhi. However, this time the state team is working on its own. In an interaction with The Indian Express, AAP state president and Sangrur candidate Bhagwant Mann claims that party this time will increase its tally in Lok Sabha.
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The AAP campaign used to be managed from Delhi but we haven’t seen the Delhi team in action this election. Will such a team arrive here in the coming days?
In 2014 and 2017, the party was spreading its wings in Punjab and hence assistance was provided to us by the Delhi team. But now party organisation is in place and we have been given a free hand to take our own decisions. (AAP convenor and ) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior party leader Manish Sisodia will keep visiting Punjab to campaign for candidates. This time, the Lok Sabha election in Punjab is being fought (by the AAP) under my presidentship.
You are sending letters to voters across the state. What is the motive behind it?
I am sending out letters to have a personal touch with the voters. Our volunteers will be going to villages to deliver the letters. In the letters, we have mentioned aboyt the works that we have done in the past five years, how the Congress government in state has failed to fulfill its poll promises and how how the party’s performance is improving after I took over as state president. In other words, we are making voters aware of false promises of the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine.
What is the threat from the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) in particular and the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) in general?
We are facing no threat at all. Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who has floated PEP. When Khaira was Leader of Opposition, he was causing damage to the party by making people join the Bains brothers’ Lok Insaaf Party or even giving negative feedback about AAP. So, we are actually relieved that he left the party with his supporters. I call PDA the Personal Democratic Alliance where all the party heads are fighting for their own presidentship. We are not going to face any challenge from the PDA. Rather, the PDA will get to know about their popularity in this election.
Rivals SAD-BJP combine and the Congress party are claiming that they are locked in a direct contest this time. What is your opinion?
SAD-BJP and Congress are hand in glove with each other. They don’t want a third front to appear before masses and hence are spreading misinformation. Truth is that people are looking for a change even now. People haven’t forgotten Badals’ ten year rule. They are being remembered as the ones under whose rule sacrilege incidents happened. They have been found involved in the incidents and are now fearing action. That is why they have even got IG Kunwar Vijay Partap transferred out of the SIT that was probing the sacrilege incidents. Congress, meanwhile, did not fulfill what they promised in their manifesto. So we, the common people, are going to masses seeking yet another chance to serve them and this time with a larger vote share and seats.
Will PDA affect your vote bank?
PDA candidates are focusing only on the AAP as if they have only one rival in Punjab. In Sangrur, PDA’s Jassi Jasraj speaks only about me and no one else. They have one point agenda – to make a dent in the AAP’s vote bank. Sukhpal Khaira is contesting from Bathinda so as to facilitate victory for (SAD’s) Harsimrat Badal. They are fighting the elections with personal agendas, rather than a will to serve masses. This gimmick will not work.
There are reports that AAP is facing fund crunch?
We contest elections by seeking voluntary donations from masses. That does not mean that we are facing fund crunch. Few days back, I raised an appeal for voluntary donations, I am glad that many people are sending us funds. This account’s record is being maintained and the expenditure detail will be provided to the ECI. We fight elections on issues. But for candidates of other parties, money is the bigger issue.
Why should people vote for you and your party?
We are honest and committed. We deliver what we say. We will take the issues of people tp Parliament and will get their problems solved. Our Delhi model is before all to see as to how we have transformed schools, hospitals and have ended corruption.