With Punjab’s ruling Congress leadership categorically ruling out an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the latter finds itself out on a limb as it scampers for alliance partners…writes Jaideep Sarin
The AAP’s Punjab unit leaders, led by state president Bhagwant Mann, have been holding parleys with leaders of the recently formed Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) but both sides have not been able to announce a formal alliance so far.
“We have met and discussed matters. There are some issues that need to be sorted out. We will have more meetings to take a decision in this regard,” Mann said here on Thursday after both sides failed to arrive on a consensus on an alliance.
The AAP had won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab in the 2014 parliamentary elections, even though it had failed to win a single seat anywhere else in the country. Mann, an actor-turned-politician who contested for the first time, had romped home with the highest victory margin of over 2.25 lakh votes among all the 13 parliamentary constituencies in Punjab.
The SAD (Taksali) was floated in December last year by senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) who had been expelled for anti-party activities.
The senior Akali leaders, including incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) from Khadoor Sahib Rattan Singh Ajnala, had revolted against SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and questioned his leadership.
“Taksali means genuine and old. We are the real Akali Dal,” the president of the new party, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, said recently.
The AAP has been forced to turn towards the SAD-Taksali leadership after being snubbed by its earlier alliance partner, the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) led by the Bains brothers – Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains.
The LIP and AAP had contested the Punjab assembly elections together in February 2017. The AAP won 20 seats while the LIP won both the seats it contested.
The LIP has now joined the newly-created Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) comprising four political parties and groups.The PDA comprises the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), LIP and the Punjab Manch led by Dr. Dharam Vira Gandhi, the AAP MP from Patiala who was suspended in May 2015 for questioning the party leadership’s functioning. The PDA has announced that it will contest nine Lok Sabha seats.
The PEP was formed recently by former AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who earlier headed a group of rebel legislators within the AAP. Khaira continues to enjoy the support of these rebels.
The party has been facing a leadership crisis in the past 3-4 years and its cadres are also disappointed.
Having started with a fresh image and a position of strength in the 2014 general elections, the AAP went into the assembly polls in February 2017 with a lot of promise. Even though it ended up with just 20 seats in the 117-member assembly, it finished as the main opposition party, relegating the SAD to the third position in the assembly.