The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced on Monday that its chief ministerial candidate for next year’s Punjab assembly elections will be from the Sikh community. The announcement was made by AAP convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal while addressing a press conference in Amritsar after the induction of former Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) Kunwar Vijay Pratap into the party.
“Punjab needs new leadership for which we are holding discussions with the party. But I can tell you for sure that whole Punjab will be proud of the decision we are going to take in that direction. I can for sure tell you that a member of the Sikh community will be our CM face. This is the only state which has a Sikh CM and we will ensure that even our CM face is from the community," Kejriwal announced.
The Aam Aadmi Party has been trying to gain a foothold in national politics by expanding beyond Delhi in states with fertile grounds for change. The ruling Congress in Punjab has been racked by internal squabbles, while long-time allies Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party who occupied the opposition space have severed ties. AAP, which itself has been hit by dissension, is also looking to piggyback on the farmers’ movement against the Centre’s new agricultural laws passed last year that have faced the sternest resistance in the state.
When asked about the allegations levelled by chief minister Amarinder Singh that Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu is in talks with AAP to make a switch, Kejriwal said any loose talk about a politician of the stature of Sidhu is not acceptable.
Kejriwal said his party would deliver “justice” in the cases of the 2015 desecration of the Sikh holy book Shri Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari and the subsequent police firing on protesters. “One party in Punjab is defamed because of corruption and sacrilege… the other party representatives are facing public wrath… The Congress never did anything productive for Punjab. Now, Punjab wants change… You have tested other parties for 70 years…. I appeal to the people that give us one chance to transform Punjab,” he added.
On its debut in the state assembly elections in 2017, AAP had gone without a CM face. But with the announcement this time, the party wants to avoid the perception of “ad hocism".
“But now there could be speculation on who that Sikh candidate is. For sure, Kejriwal seems to have someone specific in mind," said a leader.
In the 2017 Punjab polls, AAP was able to secure 20 out of the state’s 117 assembly seats.
The next elections are most likely to be held in February or March 2022.