The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, on Thursday blew the poll bugle in Punjab by vowing to end the rule of the Badal family. Addressing an impressive rally on the occasion of the Maghi Mela, here, Kejriwal focused his speech on the Badal family and their “misdeeds”. This was Kejriwal’s first public rally in Punjab after taking over as the chief minister of Delhi.
Donning a yellow turban in place of the party’s trademark cap, a visibly-upbeat Kejriwal announced, “The time for change has come and people of Punjab are ready for it. Punjab will repeat the AAP feat in Delhi.”
“The Badals will have to pay for their misdeeds. In one year from now, once AAP is in power in Punjab, we will hold inquiries against the Badals and put them in jail for their misdeeds,” he said as the crowd clapped and cheered.
He exhorted the gathering not to be afraid of the ruling family in Punjab, saying, “How can a Sikh be afraid of something?” He went on to add that he had been warned many times that the Badals were “very dangerous” and that he was putting his life in danger by standing up against them.
“Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Sikh master) had said that Singh (Sikh) and ‘singh’ (lion) would fear none. The Guru sacrificed his family for the sake of truth and justice. Even if I have to lay down my life for the sake of Punjab, I will not step back,” Kejriwal said in an emotional speech.
“When I am not afraid of their ‘tauji’ (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), why shall I be afraid of the Badals? You need not be afraid of them either. If they register false cases against you for siding with AAP, don’t worry. Once we are in power, we will withdraw those cases,” he said.
Speaking in Hindi, Kejriwal said the battle in Punjab was AAP vs SAD-BJP and Congress put together. “The SAD and Congress are a team. “They have been lodging cases against one another for so many years, but no one was ever arrested. The fact is that they are befooling the people through this arrangement. Now, the AAP has appeared on the scene to upset this arrangement,” he said. Kelriwal announced that he will be coming to Punjab in March-April and stay here for a fortnight to listen to the issues and problems of the people.
Hitting out at revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, the Delhi CM said despite general perception that he was involved in the drug trade, the SAD government didn’t take action against him. “Even Capt Amarinder Singh has been supporting him. You cannot expect him (Capt) either to take any action against Majithia,” he said. “It is only the ‘aam aadmi’ who can put Majithia behind the bars,” he said.
On the recent incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, Kejriwal said he was deeply hurt. He said the holy book was sacred not only for the Sikhs, but for the entire humanity. Promising action against those responsible for the sacrilege and for the death of innocent protesters, he said, “Mera naam Arvind Kejriwal nahin agar maine un sab ko nahin pakda.”
Virtually unveiling a part of his party’s election manifesto, Kejriwal said his government has and will provide Rs 50,000 to all farmers who lost their crop. He added that on the lines of his government’s policy in Delhi, family of every security personnel laying his life in the line of duty would be paid `1 crore as compensation if AAP government came to power in Punjab.
The Delhi CM said he had heard about a train running between Bathinda and Bikaner that daily takes Punjab’s cancer patients looking for affordable treatment to Rajasthan. “If elected, the AAP will set up more cancer hospitals in Punjab,” he added.
Arvind Kejriwal quietly came to the stage and unsheathed a sword as the crowd, unable to contain the excitement, stood up.
The crowd swelled beyond the seating capacity. Despite the cold, AAP supporters stood on buses parked outside the pandal to hear their leaders. The supports standing inside the pandal were no less than those sitting.
Party’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, however, was the main attraction. Every time he got up to ask the crowd to keep sitting and be calm, cheering and clapping greeted him.
In their speeches, AAP leaders, too, tried to put their best foot forward, almost competing with one another.
Prof Sadhu Singh, in his short speech, pointed out that the Akalis didn’t even bother to hold a rally in Muktsar. “They have run away, it seems,” he said.
The AAP rally did not have many women, who were present in large numbers at the Akali rally.