AAP attempts revival in Punjab, launches youth outreach programme
In a move to start putting its act together again in Punjab ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced to undertake a youth outreach programme from 2 June onwards. The programme 'Sada youth sab to majboot' (Our youth are the strongest) is to be executed by the youth wing of the party.
Ever since its disappointing performance in the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, the party has been struggling to retain its supporter base in the state. Punjab is a state that had offered AAP a window of opportunity outside its core base of Delhi. It is the state that returned four AAP leaders to the Lok Sabha in 2014 when the 'Modi wave' was at its peak.
Apart from these four, the party candidates gave their rivals in the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) a run for their money on several other seats as well. In the subsequent assembly polls, AAP at one point was threatening to walk away with the winner's shield but its over ambitious leaders and hobnobbing with Sikh hardliners turned he scales in favour of the Congress that returned victorious with a brute majority.
Still AAP pipped the SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine to emerge as the main Opposition party in the state. But the party has failed to check its slide ever since and has been unable to come up with a performance worth nothing in subsequent by-polls and local body elections.
But now with the political scene warming up for the Lok Sabha polls, the party has started making moves again. Punjab still has a lot to offer to the party if it makes the right moves because the disillusionment of the masses with the SAD-BJP combine that brought the Congress to power continues as the government led by Captain Amarinder Singh has failed to rise to the expectations of the people. The issues that formed the narrative for the state assembly polls continue to simmer.
It is in this context that the youth outreach programme of the party is significant. According to AAP's sitting MLA from Barnala, Gurmeet Singh, “ Ours is a party that has taken people from the grassroots to the state assembly. The traditional political parties in the state have failed to deliver. We have successfully carried out such outreach drives before also.”
He pointed that the burning issues in the state remain unaddressed. Be it the issue of unemployment, providing unemployment allowance, farm crisis or the biggest of them all — the rampant drug menace, they continue to dot the political narrative.
On being asked how the party would explain the apology submitted by its national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to the senior Akali leader Bikramjit Singh Majithia on the issue of the latter's alleged involvement in the drug trade, AAP's youth leader Manjinder Singh Sidhu said that it would be conveyed that submitting of the apology was a tactical move as Kejriwal has to take the party forward across India.
“The youth is the spine of every state and it decides the direction in which the things move. The previous governments in Punjab have failed to address the concerns of the youth. Both the Akalis and the Congress have given an opportunity to youth from well off families. It is only AAP that has given an opportunity to youngsters from ordinary families and has taken them from booth level to the state assembly,” he said.
Under the new youth outreach programme, AAP's youth leaders will start with meetings at the constituency level from 2 June onwards where it will raise the failures of the central and state governments. On the first day these meetings will be held in Dera Bassi, SAS Nagar and Chamkaur Sahib. In the first phase they plan to cover 15 constituencies by 6 June. Thereafter the programme will be extended right up to every household in the state.
The party will have to do some explaining over why many of its leaders have departed over the last several months and why people should continue to extend support to it. AAP leaders said that those who have departed were opportunists who had jumped onto the AAP wagon to serve their vested interests. They claim that their cadre strength is intact although demoralised at present.
“ We have to learn from the old mistakes and move forward. We have to approach the people who are demoralised with fresh energy. We are still with the people on the issue of drugs. We have to fight for Punjab,” said Gurmeet.
AAP leadership is also playing up the issue of the pollution in the water bodies across the state. The party planned a Yatra on Wednesday from Ludhiana to Chandigarh wherein the cadres would collect water from a polluted source and hand it over to Amarinder asking him to see for himself whether the water is potable.
AAP's strength over the last four years has been its raking up of hyper local issues and backing it up with local level protests and other programmes. The party had got a tremendous response at the grass root level ahead of the Assembly polls for the programmes it had chalked up to raise issues like drug menace, farm crisis, supply of spurious seeds, substandard fertilisers etc. It will be trying to deploy the same tactics again ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The question that remains to be answered is whether it will be able to garner the same support again or not.