Ahead of the Punjab assembly elections scheduled to be held next year, the Aam Aadmi Party is trying to make its its political base strong in the state by only promising Delhi model of governance, free electricity and a Chief Ministerial candidate from Sikh community to the people if voted to power. The AAP, whose national convenor is Arvind Kejriwal, had in 2017 state assembly polls emerged as a substantial player after winning 20 out of the total 112 seats it contested.
But five years down the line, the things seems to be have changed as the AAP could be seen struggling to make itself a potential player again in the 2022 Punjab assembly elections.
For months now, instead of focusing on its own internal affairs, the AAP was keeping an eye on political differences that had emerged within the Congress’s Punjab unit, hoping that the precipitated crisis could well provide it the answer to its leadership crisis in the state. However, with Navjot Singh Sidhu now appointed as the PCC chief, the hopes of getting cricketer-turned-politician onboard have vanished now.
Recently, Kejriwal had announced that the AAP will have a Chief Ministerial candidate from Sikh community for Punjab polls. Contrary to this, it is being said that none in the party seems to have a clue on who will get the chance. Some names such as Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema have been coming forward but none seems to have an ability to trigger a Pan Punjab appeal.
The lack of leadership seems to have percolated onto the ground. The local cadre seems clueless on priorities, agenda and the direction the party leadership was taking. Even though Kejriwal visited Punjab quite few a times, the AAP cadre seems to have hardly been showing any zeal.
Some noticeable recent exits from the AAP have also brought uncertainty for the party and it is being claimed that no attempts were made to stop the exodus. Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a firebrand leader from Doaba, recently went to the Congress party. Besides him, other bigwigs such as Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, Sucha Singh Chhotepur and many more also left the AAP.
“The local leadership does not have much of a say in the decisions of induction and even if the exits of high profile leaders are brought to the notice of the central leadership. No attempt is made to stop them from exiting the party," said a local leader, adding that AAP’s central leadership was remote controlling the local unit from Delhi.
Even though Kejriwal has made it clear that the AAP will contest from all the 117 Assembly seats in Punjab, there has been no indication so far on who would be the main faces if the party goes solo. At present, the strength of the AAP members in the state assembly has shrunk to 17.