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Akalis attack AAP in Punjab, use Sandeep Kumar & Chhotepur as ammunition

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 3 September 2016, 18:00 IST

Over the last two years, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has targeted the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) with campaigns and protests.

But now, SAD's cadres have got an opportunity to level the scores owing to the civil war that has broken out within AAP's ranks since its state convener, Succha Singh Chhotepur, was sacked.

The SAD is leaving no stone unturned and attacking the newcomers with full force on a daily basis.

And what's making matters worse for the AAP is the alleged involvement of one of its ministers in Delhi, Sandeep Kumar, in a sex scandal. This has given the Akalis more opportunity to take the moral high ground.

'Exposing' Kejriwal

The plan now seems to be for the SAD and its ally, the BJP, to carry out a two-pronged attack on the AAP - in Delhi and Punjab.

To begin with, they recently organised a photo exhibition at Connaught Place in New Delhi, titled ''Kejriwal Ke Jhuthe Vade', to 'expose' Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for misleading the people of the city. The message given through the exhibition was that the AAP leadership is now making similar promises in Punjab, which are never going to be fulfilled.

The allies now intend to hold this exhibition across Punjab.

The exhibition featured caricatures showing how Kejriwal had promised eight lakh jobs to Delhi youth, and how 25 lakh jobs are being promised in Punjab. Similarly, AAP is promising Jan Lokpal for Punjab, while the fate of the institution in Delhi remains unknown. There were also cartoons on AAP promising a drug helpline in Punjab, whereas the one in Delhi is often found closed.

The other issues where AAP was 'exposed' in the exhibition included opening of new colleges, starting a skill development mission, tanker mafia-free water supply and security to women.

Some of the cartoons pertained to Punjab AAP leaders Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh for their alleged drinking habits, and it was pointed out that the party had promised to obtain affidavits from candidates wanting to contest the forthcoming Punjab polls that they do not consume drugs or alcohol.

Moral high ground

The Sandeep Kumar case led to the SAD leadership launching an all-out offensive against Kejriwal, asking him to come clean on media reports that he had had the CD of the scandal with him for 15 days, and acted only when he was told that the media was about to blow up the issue.

"The party now stinks on every front, with its own workers airing their disenchantment on acts of sleaze, intrigue, corruption and all types of exploitation of workers by party bigwigs," said senior Akali leaders Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder.

Being a right-wing party, where politics and religion go hand in hand, the Akalis love to take the moral high ground. The two leaders said that Kejriwal had invited international disrepute on not only the national capital, but the entire country, by turning politics into a haven for 'morally loose' characters, whom he had been secretly using as 'boxers' against those within his own party raising their voices against his dictatorial ways.

"And it has happened at a time when an international dignitary of the stature of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is visiting the capital. What an embarrassment to the whole country this party has caused!" they said.

Questioning the leaders

SAD leaders have also expressed apprehensions about the 'shady goings-on' in Punjab around the 'dubious' duo of Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak, about whom AAP volunteers have been airing 'dreadful' reports, hinting at moral turpitude and exploitation of innocent workers.

"It is really scary and stinks of the worst immoralities," said the Akali leaders, stating that AAP workers in Punjab should be wary of the 'scandalous' party and its 'conspirators', appointed by Delhi.

Pointing to the AAP leaders who are facing charges from their own cadres, SAD has started posing questions to the people about whether they want such leadership in Punjab.

Other Akali leaders like Maheshinder Singh Grewal and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema have said that AAP has adopted the 'Delhi model' for distributing party nominations.

"Already, there are allegations that corrupt officials, history-sheeters and money bags have been given party tickets in Punjab. Won't such persons indulge in the same malpractices?" they said, while claiming that this is already being proven true, with AAP leaders themselves detailing how Uttar Pradesh-based AAP leaders are asking for and taking crores of rupees from ticket aspirants in Punjab, without the party maintaining any account of the money collected by it.

Shooting themselves in the foot

Observers point out that AAP leaders have been rattled by the fallout of Chhotepur's sacking, and have been giving enough opportunities to their detractors and even others to attack them.

Bhagwant Mann, for example, chose to target the media at Fatehgarh Sahib. After he arrived four hours late for a rally, his supporters then started heckling mediapersons, while he too misbehaved with them. He told AAP volunteers not to read newspapers as mediapersons were sell-outs, and told the reporters that the AAP doesn't its events to be reported in the press. This led to widespread condemnation, not only from the media fraternity, but from political opponents as well.

Some days ago, Mann tried to score some brownie points by attacking the Akalis for distributing utensils worth Rs 100 crore across Punjab, for which a budgetary provision had been made. Mann reportedly said the help and facilities the government was providing to the poor and Dalits had reduced their status to that of beggars.

The Akalis were quit to point out that this statement, coming on the heels of Kejriwal's opposition to reservation for Dalits and backward classes, showed that AAP was stricken by 'high caste cancer'.

"This man is drunk on high caste arrogance, and desperately needs to be sent to some rehabilitation centre to cure his casteist intoxication. He doesn't realise that it is the duty of every government to stand by every needy and poor person, especially those who are historically disadvantaged. The government is a trustee of people's money for the people. People don't become beggars by receiving help and facilities out of their own money. We are shocked at the mindset of the AAP high-ups," said SAD general secretary Harcharan Singh Bains.

Some days ago, Akali MPs had approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) to investigate the rampant violation of electoral laws by AAP, following revelations that the party was amassing money to distribute party tickets for the 2017 Assembly elections.

"The alleged 'party of change' has turned out to be a money collection machine, which is milking gullible Punjabis by promising tickets to them. This has vitiated electoral politics in Punjab," they said.

Remaining defiant

AAP leader Sanjay Singh said its opponents are deriving pleasure out of the developments related to the party.

"But there is no decline in public support for AAP. People are with AAP and AAP will form the next government in the state," he insisted.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 3 September 2016, 18:00 IST