Updated: January 17, 2022 3:57:23 pm
WEEKS after its talks with the Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) failed, the Aam Aadmi Party has begun to train its guns on the fledgling party floated by farmer unions, accusing it of being in cahoots with the BJP and trying to lure away its candidates.
Last week, party chief Arvind Kejriwal said they were in talks with SSM president Balbir Singh Rajewal for an alliance but it hadn’t worked out because the latter was demanding more tickets than AAP could give. He also admitted that the SSM’s decision to go it alone would hit AAP the hardest.
The extent of the hurt has been obvious since. AAP’s Punjab co-in-charge Raghav Chadha called a press conference to accuse the Election Commission of giving concessions in registration to help a “morcha”, and said this was part of BJP conspiracy to keep AAP at bay. While Chadha didn’t name anyone, it was obvious that he meant the SSM, which started its process to register with the EC just days before the announcement of the elections.
Following AAP’s claims, the EC put out a clarification saying similar provisions had been made in earlier polls in 2019, 2020 and 2021. On Friday, it issued a notification saying the notice period for registration of new political parties in the five poll-going states was being reduced from 30 days to 7 days, keeping in view difficulties caused by Covid-19-induced curbs, and that it had done the same earlier for previous elections held during the pandemic period.
SSM leaders said AAP was showing its desperation as it’s “losing ground in Punjab”. Rajewal associates pointed out that the EC was not making an exception for the SSM.
Says party leader Manjeet Singh: “This is the fourth time the EC has done this. It did so before the 2019 general elections, the 2020 Bihar elections and the March 2021 state polls. AAP is feeling threatened, and is trying to create a false defence by levelling fabricated allegations.”
The quick collapse of ties between AAP and the SSM, floated by farmer unions which had participated in the year-long farmer protests, has been surprising. AAP had lent its support to the protesting farmers, and the unions were seen as favourably disposed towards it.
AAP MLA Meet Hayer blames the rift on the SSM, accusing it of trying to wean away AAP leaders. “It is promising to bear all their election expenses.”
With the SSM a greenhorn, AAP leaders say, such offers could only be explained by the fact that the BJP is behind it. Hayer says this is one of the many ways the BJP is trying to stop AAP from forming the next government in Punjab. “It is making many clandestine alliances and is funding its aligned leaders and parties to stand for elections.”
He adds that the fight for the BJP is bigger than Punjab. “The BJP considers AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as the main opposition leader in the country. Today those who are in an indirect alliance with the BJP are approaching our honest and old workers to leave AAP. Our workers are being offered money and tickets.”
Denying such claims, BKU (Rajewal) general secretary Onkar Singh Agaul asks how they could join hands with the BJP “when we fought against it and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue of the three farm laws for over a year”.
AAP was getting weak in Punjab and hence its leaders were misguiding people, Agaul adds. “People are moving towards the SSM, that is why the mainstream parties are upset.”
On the registration of the party, SSM spokesperson Ravneet Singh Brar told The Sunday Express that the morcha had moved the EC before the enforcement of the model code of conduct. “We are hopeful the morcha will get registered soon and a poll symbol will be allotted to it,” said Brar, the SSM candidate from Mohali constituency.
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