Buoyant AAP to take campus route, contest PU, MC polls

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 13, 2015 08:05 IST

Upbeat by its come-from-behind win in the Delhi assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has got back to its plans to take the campus route via Chandigarh to make a dent in the northern region’s politics.

“We are building our student organisation at Panjab University and the affiliated colleges, and plan to contest the next campus polls,” said Gul Panag, the party’s 2014 Lok Sabha candidate from Chandigarh, who had finished third with over a lakh votes. She also told HT that the party would contest the Chandigarh municipal corporation (MC) elections, due in 2016-end, “after building a proper organisational structure”.

Having been off the city scene for some months, actor-turned-politician Panag has become visible here again after the victory in the national capital. About that and the party’s go-slow approach to building a cadre, she explained it by citing the party’s single-minded focus on the “high-stakes battle” in Delhi after the LS debacle.

There were even meetings about the party entering PU last year, but that was that. Now, Panag reiterates that PU — “as a place where students from Punjab, Haryana and other states come together” — could help the party spread its message much further than Chandigarh. “Big leaders have emerged from places like Delhi University. Why can’t PU be more like that? And we will show that university elections too can be fought without violence and other such means.”

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party has targeted the Punjab assembly elections due in 2017 as the next big splash, as it had got all its four LS seats from the state. At the same time, it had announced that it won’t contest other assembly polls before that. Plans to contest the PU polls and then the Chandigarh MC elections, however, could mark a major foray in the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana before that.

Party leader and academician Manjit Singh, too, said students and people in general were now flocking to the party, hence the AAP’s student wing — Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) — would give the student community a platform, and “take the logical next steps in due course”. Student elections are held on the PU campus and colleges in Chandigarh around September every year.

AAP’s planned foray comes in continuance of the trend of mainstream political parties’ student wings taking up space at PU. The homegrown Punjab University Students’ Union (PUSU) and Students’ Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU) have becomes minor players, while Congress wing National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) has won the last two elections on the campus. BJP’s ABVP, Shiromani Akali Dal’s SOI, and Haryana-based INLD’s INSO are also among the players more actively than before.

Explaining her absence, party plans for city

After finishing third to BJP winner Kirron Kher and Congress’ Pawan Bansal as AAP’s Chandigarh Lok Sabha candidate last year, Gul Panag has been missing from the Chandigarh scene for long. She explained that on Thursday, saying, “Indeed all exercises were put on hold to focus on the Delhi elections, due to obvious reasons. That is why the visibility was much reduced.” But she hit the streets of Delhi, too, only in the last leg of campaign. She retorted, claiming, “I was working with our team, drafting issues for Delhi since October. You saw me on the street when the party asked me to get to that.”

Pressed about her future political plans, she said she would be in the city “for seven to 10 days every month” now. But, she added, “In any case, we are building an organisation from the grassroots, and not imposing a structure or leader. I am one part of that structure.”

As for the MC target, Panag said central observers Gaurav Tiwari and Reena Gupta had since September chalked out a steering committee for the city that would be announced soon. “Under this committee’s watch, we plan to hold intra-party elections. That way, the AAP in Chandigarh would come up democratically, and we will better identify issues and future leaders.” aarish.chhabra@hindustantimes.com

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