Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Friday dismissed the Lok Sabha poll debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as media hype, saying that Arvind Kejriwal's party created a buzz in the print and social media but on the ground things were different.
Disagreeing with Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab Shakeel Ahmed, who has been quoted by newspapers as saying that the AAP will hurt Congress prospects in the state, Bajwa said, "Ahmed was in Gurdaspur and other parts of Punjab for a few days. The only seat where the AAP will affect the Congress is Sangrur, that too for different reasons. In all other seats, the anti-incumbency vote has come to us and we have gained from the AAP's presence as it has dented the vote bank of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party. We have done our calculations and at best the AAP will take 10% vote share in the state."
He said Punjab would not see a re-run of Delhi, where the AAP dislodged the incumbent government. "In Delhi, the Congress was in power and the AAP took away the anti-incumbency vote of nearly 12%. In Punjab, the Akalis are in power and disgruntled Akali-BJP voters, for whom the Congress is a taboo, have gone for the AAP as they now have an alternative," Bajwa claimed.
Citing the example of his own constituency, Gurdaspur, Bajwa said AAP candidate Sucha Singh Chhotepur was a former Akali and the Akali vote had been split between factions owing allegiance to Chhotepur and the Badals in villages. In the split of vote between Akalis, Bajwa claimed his victory. "Ageing Vinod Khanna had a lacklustre campaign and there was also BJP infighting."
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief admitted that non-resident Indians (NRIs) had supported the AAP in big numbers, besides young urban voters. "NRIs have called up their kin in villages and asked them to support the AAP. In urban areas, young voters active on the social media may also be swayed by Kejriwal's party, but in rural areas, they vote according to the wishes of their parents. While the AAP will affect us a little, it will hit the SAD-BJP hard. Overall, the Congress will be the gainer," he added.
Apart from 'disillusionment' with both the SAD-BJP and the Congress, one of the reasons why the Punjabi diaspora is supporting the AAP is the Arvind Kejriwal government's move, during its short stint in power, of forming a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
On former Punjab CM and Amritsar candidate Capt Amarinder Singh's claim that the AAP will affect the Congress in Patiala and both Congress and the SAD-BJP equally in Gurdaspur, Bajwa stated that in Patiala, the AAP would get significant urban votes. "In case of Gurdaspur, that is his (Amarinder's) own opinion and perception," he said.
A man of words when it comes to analogies, Bajwa had a few for the AAP: "Maanh di daal de daane warge, phulle jyada ne (AAP is more of hype). Nawan kapda sab nu pauna changa lagda ae, chahe baad ch taphhar hi pe jaan (everyone likes wearing a new garment, even if it gives them rashes later)."
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