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Punjab » Politics

Posted at: Jan 12, 2017, 2:02 AM; last updated: Jan 12, 2017, 9:13 AM (IST)STATE OF PARTIES: LOK INSAAF PARTY

Disillusioned with AAP, splinter groups out to redefine political narrative

Simarjit, Balwinder Bains have contrasting personalities, but are a force to reckon with
Disillusioned with AAP, splinter groups out to redefine political narrative
Once the blue-eyed boys of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, Simarjit Singh and Balwinder Singh Bains turned rebels and later became Independent MLAs. Last year, they floated the Lok Insaaf Party. Tribune file photo

Vishav Bharti

tribune news service

chandigarh, january 12

When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) refused to contest the Khadoor Sahib byelection in 2016, former state convener of the party Sumail Singh Sidhu jumped into the fray as an Independent, hoping to consolidate disgruntled AAP volunteers and “provide them leadership”. With just 2,243 votes — even less than NOTA (none of the above) — only the leader remained, the volunteers withered away.

A year later, he stands firm, but calls “Khadoor Sahib a setback”. Sumail Sidhu is not alone. There are several “victims of AAP”, which claim themselves to be true custodians of AAP’s ideology of Swaraj. If some were thrown out of AAP, some felt suffocated and left of their own accord.

The Aapna Punjab Party (APP), Democratic Swaraj Party, Punjab Front, AAP Volunteers’ Front, Punjab Sanjhiwal Morcha — there are several names in fray for the Assembly elections.

Col Jasjit Singh Gill, a spokesperson for APP, objects when his party is called a splinter group of AAP. “Wait for elections. We are a very serious player and we will a big force. That is why we are contesting all 117 seats,” he says. According to political observers, most of these groups will divide anti-incumbency votes, thus helping the SAD-BJP ruling alliance.

The situation is such that most of them wanted to get names resembling AAP. A couple of months ago, the Election Commission was even flooded with queries of checking availability of names such as Aam Aadmi Party, Punjab; Aam Lok Party; and Lok Punjab Party. However, these groups are different neither in practice nor programme from AAP’s. Dr Dharamvira Gandhi has left AAP’s line. He is emphasising on a strong regional party instead of a national one.

Irrespective of winning or losing, it’s more important for Patiala MP Dr Gandhi – now a suspended member of AAP – to float the idea of a true regional party in the state. His Punjab Front has fielded 26 candidates. “AAP claimed to be a different political party, but it failed on all its major promises. It killed the dream of people of this country about an alternative politics,” he says.

To contest all 117 seats, he says, means helping Akalis retain power. Agrees Prof Manjit Singh of the Democratic Swaraj Party, which is part of the Punjab Front. “We will fulfill the dream shown to volunteers of AAP by Arvind Kejriwal. We are not that strong, but it’s important to keep the idea afloat,” says Prof Singh, president, Democratic Swaraj Party.

According to political observers, mushrooming of small groups during elections is a common phenomenon. But not many stay active a couple months after the elections.

Tell as much to Sumail Sidhu and he disagrees. He feels that though their experiment in Khadoor Sahib failed, the way Kejriwal and his party has centralised power more than the traditional parties, it will bite the dust. “Look at their election slogan: ‘Kejriwal Kejriwal, saara Punjab tere naal’. Where is the mention of the party or any other leader from Punjab? Is this their idea of Swaraj?” he asks. “There is a need to build a true Punjabi idiom of politics and we are working towards it,” he adds.

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