The Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced the party's decision to contest all the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in Punjab on their own. At a social event in Punjab on Thursday, he lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal, making it clear that the AAP has zeroed in on who they will take on electorally.
On Friday, senior AAP leader Harvinder Singh Phoolka, MLA from the Dakha constituency in Ludhiana district, resigned from the assembly protesting against the Congress government's failure to register cases against the former chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, in cases pertaining to the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari in Faridkot district and also the police firing resulting in two deaths, exactly three years ago. Phoolka has also demanded the arrest of former deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Badal, as well as the then police chief.
Incidentally, people protesting against the sacrilege have been sitting on a dharna in the village since June 1, and they are expected to observe the third death anniversary of the victims of police firing on October 14. The situation is so tense that the police have beefed up security measures in the area, all making for the perfect timing for the AAP to raise the sacrilege issue.
In the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, if there is one state where the AAP can hope to win a few seats or pose a serious challenge to the established older parties, it is Punjab. The party was expected to sweep the assembly elections in February 2017, even at the height of a pro-Amarender Singh wave, but had to settle with 20 seats out of 117 as differences, charges and counter charges rocked its boat. Nevertheless, it became the main opposition, trouncing the old Shiromani Akali Dal, and bagged the post of leader of opposition.
In the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, a fledgling AAP contested 432 seats, and won four seats, all from Punjab. The Bahujan Samaj Party fielded 503 candidates, and did not win even one, indicating that the young party fared better than an old one in a pan-Indian context.
Since the assembly polls shock, the Punjab state unit of the AAP has been facing internal crises one after another, and in the latest one, its chief Sukhpal Singh Khaira was replaced by Harpal Singh Cheema in July, and many senior leaders relinquished party posts.
In taking on the Panthic party, the AAP has demonstrated that it will not shy away from dabbling in gurdwara politics and issues concerning the Sikhs, who constitute the SAD and Congress vote bank.