Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will meet party leaders including those from Punjab on Wednesday in New Delhi to discuss the recent assembly election results. The meeting is part of the AAP’s introspection exercise to analyse its performance in the Punjab elections and come up with a strategy on how to move forward in the state.
The party won 20 seats in the recently concluded polls, which was well below its expectations of forming the government in the state.
“All our MLAs, senior leaders from the state and those in charge will be present at the meeting. These results did not meet our expectations,” Punjab convenor Gurpreet Singh Waraich, who lost the poll from Batala said. AAP and its ally Lok Insaaf Party finished with 22 seats in all, a notch above the ousted Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine’s 18.
The meeting will also decide on who will be the leader of the opposition in the assembly. “Our MLAs are first timers, the national convener and other senior leaders will apprise them of the policies of the party and set the ground for AAP’s role as the principal opposition party in Punjab,” Waraich said.
AAP leaders in Delhi have asked the Punjab unit to supply election performance statistics. There will be candidate interviews with prominent losers, including Waraich and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann to identify the causes for AAP’s defeat. “I will attend Parliament from Thursday and raise issues related to the state,” Mann said.
Sources said the Punjab results could force the party to redraw its strategy. The immediate fallout would be to reduce the visible involvement of central leaders in the party’s Punjab affairs. Among those who are in the reckoning for the position of leader of the opposition is Dhakha MLA HS Phoolka, former journalist Kanwar Sandhu and Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
Though Phoolka won the election unlike former journalist Jarnail Singh who quit his Rajouri garden seat in the Delhi assembly to fight against then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, sources in Punjab said he could lose out in the race since the issue of Delhi leadership imposing leaders from outside is weighing on the party’s mind. Phoolka is best known for being a Delhi based lawyer and activist who represented the victims of 1984’s anti-Sikh violence in the capital.
Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh will also be in the opposition benches. “The party cannot allow them the chance to occupy the opposition space in the assembly. We need a strong strategy to counter both the Congress and SAD in Punjab,” a source privy to the introspection exercise said.