AAP is making all the right noises in Punjab. Can it get its act together before LS polls?
After a year of turmoil that followed its drubbing in the Punjab Assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has started making right kind of noises once again. The year that followed its loss was mostly non-productive for the party in political terms although it did try to take credit for the ouster of cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh over the sand mining scandal. Other than this, the party fared poorly in the by-polls and civic body elections. The period also saw several structural changes within the organisation but nothing much was visible on the ground.
But in the last 15 days there have been signals that AAP might be getting its act together once again. It is a well known fact that for AAP, the strategy that has worked best is its hyper local movements. It is through issues at local level that the party was able to establish a direct connect with the masses and this was paying off well till the time the internal bickering started taking its toll as some of the leaders grew too ambitious ahead of the Punjab Assembly polls.
AAP has got good response whenever it has raised issues that directly concern the people - mainly farmers, women and the students. With just a year to go for the next parliamentary polls, the party will have to hit the ground once again to recapture its lost support base if it wants to not only retain its four seats in the state but also try to get some more.
It was interesting to see party's co-president in Punjab, Aman Arora, who is also Sunam MLA writing a letter to the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to share the concern of a class 12 student Manpreet Kaur who was depressed and demoralised as she could not attempt her board exam properly due to the blaring sound that came first from a wedding celebration, then a 'Jagran' and finally from the early morning sermons of the local Gurudwara.
“ I despite fully being aware that when it comes to religion and faith, our social and political structure is ultra fragile and oversensitive, and raising them may not be good for any political person, but still I feel it to be my primary duty to raise this all important issue. I know that flagging the issue may not go down well with a few, but we'll all have to understand that as written in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji education is the only way to enlighten, strengthen and empower the mankind,” the letter read.
The writer asked the government to do the needful to restrict playing of loudspeakers at religious functions like 'Jagrans', temples and Gurudwaras along with social events like weddings etc beyond permissible limits, at least during the examination days of students.
Now this is something which is of major concern to a large section of the population, particularly students, the aged and the sick. Despite laws in place to address these concerns no one dares to complain and even if one does there is reluctance on the part of the law enforcing agencies. AAP has shown the courage to raise the issue with the government.
After this step, Arora sent across another popular signal on the International Women's day on March 8. He chose to celebrate the day in a different way by laying the foundation stone of a washroom in girls’ school at village Dhadrian of his constituency. The school had no washroom and the girl students were forced to go out in the fields or to use the washroom of neighboring houses. He pointed, “The women in India and abroad have a glorious past and all the religious texts give utmost place to the women. It is our duty to provide respect and security to the girls who are the future of this country.” He disclosed that a few days ago during a meeting with some NRI families, he had urged them to help in building washrooms in the girls’ schools where there were none. or were in a bad state. A couple of NRI families immediately agreed to provide financial help. “This is the beginning of the mission and washrooms in all the schools of Sunam constituency will be built in next one or two months,” he said.
This has been followed up with the party coming out in support of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and computer teachers of the state. AAP has announced to raise the issue in forthcoming Budget session of the state assembly. In a joint statement, AAP's state president Bhagwant Mann and Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira along with others said that the the representatives of the different teachers unions submitted memorandum to the party and it came to light how the government is harassing the teachers and is planning to cut short their salaries.
Mann said that just like the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, the Congress regime is also destroying the education system in the state. He said that he will request the Lok Sabha speaker to ask Punjab government to implement Arvind Kejriwal Model of school education in the state as she did by passing the words to the Madhya Pradesh government.
Besides raising these people centric issues, the party has also been attacking the government on the issue of rampant illegal mining and 'Goonda Tax'. Khaira has been the most vocal opposition leader
on this issue. His repeated barbs at the Congress leadership including Amarinder has forced the Congress to launch a counter attack on him.
The Congress leaders have issues a statement recently asking him to put his own house in order before commenting on the functioning of the government.
“When Khaira should be introspecting about the decimation of his party, a fact admitted by Manish Sisodia (party in-charge for Punjab), he was trying to poke his nose elsewhere,” said Congress leaders Harminder Singh Gill, Ramanjit Singh Sikki and Bawa Henry as they accused Khaira of trying to deflect the attention from his own failures. They criticised Khaira for trying to find fault in everything that the government does.
With the masses still angry with the SAD-BJP combine over its failure to do anything in their decade long stint and their disillusionment growing with the Amarinder-led Congress regime, there is wide fertile field still available for AAP to capitalise upon. What remains to be seen is whether the party can seize this opportunity ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.