It was the first political conference of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the occasion of a religious 'mela' or fare and it was a huge success, in terms of numbers.
The AAP venue attracted far more people than the SAD or Congress rallies organised here on Sunday. This was despite the fact that not a single poster or banner of the party was visible anywhere in the town or along the highways and roads informing people of its political conference.
The Akalis and Congress had put up such banners and posters at every nook and corner of the town. Whether the people came to hear Bhagwant Mann's comic comments or whether to hear the AAP ideology, is anyone's guess. In fact it was the first ever political rally of AAP in the Beas-Baba Bakala area of Majha.
AAP organised this conference on the occasion of the 'Rakhar Purnima' annual fare in this historic town where the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was 'discovered' by Makhan Shah Lubana, a follower. Thereafter on the occasion of 'Rakhar Purnima' and in this town, Tegh Bahadur was declared the ninth guru and assumed the leadership of the Sikhs.
The AAP, which strongly believes in keeping religion and politics apart has avoided using religious occasions for political benefits. The party has never held such rallies or conferences during the 'Maghi Mela' at Muktsar or during the 'Jor Mela' at Fathergarh Sahib in the past. Unlike the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress, the party also avoided propagating politics during the Baisakhi Mela at Talwandi Sabo and during 'Hola Mohalla' at Anandpur Sahib.
When asked about the reasons for holding a political conference at Baba Bakala, AAP MP from Sangrur and its most important leader from Punjab, Bhagwant Mann replied, " Unlike the Akalis or the Congress we are not using the occasion to ask for votes or to win over the people. We are here simply to tell the people in what we stand for and what we believe in ".
Making it clear that AAP never allows religion and politics to mingle together, Mann pointed out,
"You know how the Akalis use such occasions to mislead the public and also to whip up religious feelings".
Though Mann did use the occasion to explain to the people the policies and programmes of AAP but at the same time he did not hesitate in criticizing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for his policies, particularly the 'Sangat darshan' programmes.
" He (Badal) takes your money and then gives it back to you at such programmes.He then claims to have done something for the people and expects a pat", said Mann while belting out a couple of comic lines which had the people present clapping their hands.
He also was critical of the anti-drug of the government and said, " If you (Badal) are sincere then why has not Bikram Majithia (minister) been booked. The actual people behind the drug trade have not been touched ".
Like Mann. his colleague, Suchha Singh Chottepur, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha poll from Gurdaspur, castigated Badal and his family for indulging in corruption. Others who spoke were Dr Daljit Singh, who had unsuccessfully contested from Amritsar, Jarnail Singh and a few others.
AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal was expected for the rally but due to engagements elsewhere his programme was cancelled. The party had won four Lok Sabha seats and all were from Punjab.