Much water has flown down the bridge since the Maghi Mela at Muktsar in January for the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Punjab unit as unlike the previous conference, which was attended by all four MPs of the state, Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann was accompanied by only a handful of leaders at the Baisakhi Mela on Tuesday, somehow confirming rumours of a rift within the party unit.
Only a few senior leaders such as Sucha Singh Chhotepur, HS Phoolka and Sanjay Singh, the latter from New Delhi, made it to attend the event.
The leaders kept criticising the state government but refrained from addressing key issues like declaring Chandigarh as capital of Punjab only and the water dispute with Haryana. About the absence of MPs Dr Dharamvira Gandhi (Patiala), Sadhu Singh (Faridkot) and Harinder Singh Khalsa (Fatehgarh Sahib), Sanjay Singh denied having any rift within the party. “MPs might be occupied with something else. It is not necessary that every leader of the AAP state unit must participate in this rally,” he said.
Mann, however, clarified that Sadhu Singh could not join the rally due to health issues and also warned that any AAP member who attends the meeting called by Yogendra Yadav would have to face strict action.
As crowd swelled, it got very tough for the local leaders to continue with their speech as chorus for Mann’s address grew louder. The party leadership sang praises of Arvind Kejriwal for announcing higher compensation for the farmers who are facing crop loss due to bad weather.
The leaders asked people to gear up for the 2017 assembly elections and invited them to a rally to be held on April 22 in New Delhi in protest against the land acquisition bill passed by the central government.
Sanjay Singh, who came from Delhi to attend the rally, said the state will have to end dynastic politics which is prevalent in almost all over the country. “From Kashmir to Odisha every state has been controlled by one family or the other. Be it the Abdullah clan in J&K or the Badals in Punjab, we will never follow dynastic politics.”
He accused the state government of spoiling the future of youth in Punjab by promoting drugs.
Before Mann came to speak, Chhotepur took a jibe at the comedian-turned-politician by asking the impatient crowd to leave if they had only come to listen to chutklas (jokes).