The declaration of the chief ministerial candidate by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa that goes to polls almost at the same time as Punjab has brought the focus back on the big question – who will be party’s CM candidate in Punjab?
The party supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has maintained a studied silence on the issue in Punjab. However, now with his declaring a former bureaucrat Elvis Gomes as the party’s CM candidate in Goa, the party will come under pressure to make a similar announcement in the state.
The party’s principal opponents — the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress have been suggesting that the reason that Kejriwal is not announcing any of his local leaders as the CM candidate is because the AAP convener himself is harbouring hopes of becoming the Punjab chief minister. The party’s move in Goa is likely to recharge the clamour that a party of “outsiders” is trying to usurp power in Punjab to bring it in confrontation with the Centre.
The party does seem to be unclear about its choice for Punjab. In a bid to counter the SAD and Congress, the party’s spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira had announced in September that Kejriwal will never leave Delhi to become Punjab CM. Earlier in April, the party’s Punjab in-charge Sanjay Singh too had ruled out the possibility of Kejriwal’s becoming the Punjab CM. But the man himself has never categorically denied the possibility.
Kejriwal, however, has shied away from answering this question keeping the cards close to his chest, choosing to be rather cryptic in his responses. Answering media queries during his three day tour of Punjab in October, he said it was “not important” for the people of Punjab to know who will be AAP’s CM candidate. When asked if he would be CM, he had said, “There is no such discussion in the party right now.” In another interview early this month, Kejriwal said it was the “public that decides its chief minister”. Last month, Kejriwal announced that the deputy chief minister of the state will be a Dalit in case the AAP forms the next government . But again there was no word on the CM candidate.
Other than its opponents upping their ante against the party following the Goa announcement, the party is also likely to face a reaction from its local leadership. Within the AAP, there are voices which have been goading Kejriwal to declare the CM candidate to boost their campaign. The party’s campaign committee in-charge Bhagwant Mann has been saying for long that a CM candidate should be declared. There are others in the party who say that the CM should be chosen from among the elected MLAs in case it gets a majority in the state.