AAP on the back foot as Congress counts its gains

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 08, 2016 11:26 IST
“The AAP is a more formidable rival than the SAD-BJP and we are competing with it for the anti-incumbency vote,” says a Congress insider. (HT File Photo)

From seeking an independent and credible probe into allegations against AAP MLA Naresh Yadav’s involvement in the desecration of Quran at Malerkotla to claiming AAP’s hand cannot be ruled out to demanding his arrest, the statements of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh have changed sweepingly over the last week.

As AAP now looks defenceless in the twin controversies on its manifesto and the SAD-BJP has unleashed both police and Panthic institutions on Arvind Kejriwal’s party, Congress took time to notice the “windfall”.

In the recent weeks, it was Congress which was providing AAP and SAD-BJP the strike power be it appointment of Congress in-charges for the state or the Enforcement Directorate (ED) notices to Amarinder’s son, Raninder Singh. “The AAP is a more formidable rival than the SAD-BJP and we are competing with it for the anti-incumbency vote. So if the AAP’s indiscretion dents its image, these votes will shift to us by default,” says a Congress insider.

In the fast-changing poll-scape of Punjab in just weeks, Amarinder now echoes the views of SAD president Sukhbir Badal, attributing his changed stance to the doctrine of “innocent till proven guilty”.

“I had said police should not go after Yadav until they were sure. But the statements of the main accused have proved that the MLA was a party to the (desecration) conspiracy. I have been saying all through that the AAP is a party of outsiders and does not understand Punjab’s culture, religion or traditions. It believes in anarchy and is trying to communalise the state for electoral gains. Are Sikhs such as Himmat Singh Shergill, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, or that drunk MP Bhagwant Mann not aware that you cannot use the picture of Darbar Sahib with your poll manifesto or compare the document to Guru Granth Sahib,” said Amarinder.

On the gains to the AAP from Quran sacrilege, he says: “The party just wants to create confusion in minds of Punjab people. “We do have Muslim population in districts such as Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar. [Arvind] Kejriwal wants them to flock to him. Punjab has seen this before in the 1970s and 1980s during elections when the Akalis cut tails and ears of cows and threw them in mandir. Later, cigarette packs were found in ‘sarovars’ (ponds) of gurdwaras. Which is why I openly blame Akalis for engineering incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib last year.”

Some see the AAP losing the initial advantage. “People were disillusioned with both main parties, the AAP had made rapid inroads by emerging as an alternative, also by claiming tacit understanding between the two. But in its ambition to create a buzz, it went overboard with ads, posters, and section-wise manifestos. The excess has done the damage,” adds a senior Congress leader.

Also read | HT ANALYSIS: After AAP’s self-goals in Punjab, Team Kejri on the defensive

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