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The fall and fall of Punjab AAP

The Aam Aadmi Party is not only facing the prospect of losing the tag of largest Opposition party in Punjab but it has been dealt another blow ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Ranjeet Jamwal | Chandigarh |

Ever since the February 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been on the decline and the exit of three of 20 MLAs is likely to hit the Arvind Kejriwal-led party hard ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. After HS Phoolka and Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Baldev Singh is the latest Punjab AAP MLA to resign from the  party.

The latter cited party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “dictatorial, arrogant and autocratic style of functioning” for his resignation. Baldev Singh is among the seven Punjab AAP MLAs who had formed a separate group within the party under the leadership of Khaira.

After resigning from AAP, Khaira has announced a new political outfit, ‘Punjabi Ekta Party’ which, he said, will be a Punjab-centric regional party.

Indicating the Punjab AAP would split soon, six rebel AAP legislators ~ Kanwar Singh Sandhu, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, Jagtar Singh Hissowal, Pirmal Singh Khalsa, Master Baldev Singh and Nazar Singh Manshahia ~ were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

Two of AAP’s four members of Parliament from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning AAP’s leadership style. This was despite AAP winning Lok Sabha seats only in Punjab even as it was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the 2014 general elections.

Much to the disappointment of voters in the state who have been looking for an alternative to the two traditional parties, the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal, AAP has miserably failed to keep its flock together and do justice to its role as the main Opposition party.

Besides affecting the morale of AAP supporters, with the latest resignations the beleaguered party is now facing the threat of losing even the status of single largest Opposition party and the post of Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Assembly.

Barring the three MLAs who have resigned, AAP has 17 MLAs now in the Assembly whereas the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has 15. Even of those 17, five have already revolted against the AAP high command under the leadership of Khaira.

A rebel AAP MLA, Kanwar Sandhu, who was one of the six MLAs present at the launch of Khaira’s new party, said they would decide their next move after consulting their supporters.”Our main objective is to fight for more autonomy for the state unit, we have always asked the central leadership to provide more power to the local leadership. We are very clear on that and there is no compromise on our demand, but we are still hopeful that the party leadership will heed our demand,” he said.

This feud within AAP is good news for both the ruling Congress and the SAD, as AAP’s loss will be a gain for both the parties. Therefore questions are already being asked if it’s the end of the road for AAP in Punjab. The party suffered humiliating defeats in the bypolls for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat and the Shahkot Assembly constituency where AAP polled just 1.5 per cent of the vote, getting 1,900 votes.

Amid speculation of a possible alliance between AAP and Congress in Delhi, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ruled out the need for an alliance with AAP in the state. He said AAP was now totally non-existent in Punjab and the state Congress had conveyed these views to the high command.

“AAP has become defunct, with no identity now in Punjab, as against the situation prevailing in the last Lok Sabha elections,” the CM said. Amarinder Singh maintains AAP has completely lost the script and is no longer relevant in the country’s political arena. He has advised AAP to pack its bags and leave Punjab instead of continuing to shame itself with such shocking electoral defeats.

“The people of Punjab have not forgiven AAP as it has cheated them as it has been hand in glove with Akali Dal. Arvind Kejriwal seeking an apology and getting it from Bikram Majithia was just a farce and now people have come to know the real face of AAP. Also, the NRIs have deserted them after they came to know their actual motives, as they preached alternative politics,” said Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said AAP has ceased to exist as a political entity in Punjab. SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said the Akali Dal is not affected by what is happening within Punjab AAP.

“The recent developments have brought out the true face of AAP in front of the people. We don’t need the AAP for revival, we have already done that in local body elections in the state. The Congress, AAP and AAP’s faction all fear the SAD,” he said.