As political parties in Punjab gear up for a show of strength at Muktsar’s Maghi mela on Thursday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has stepped up efforts to woo former finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal to its fold.
Manpreet, who was expelled from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in 2010 following differences with his cousin and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and now heads the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), had in the past denied any move to either join or merge his party with the AAP.
AAP sources confirmed that “there is some headway” in their talks with Manpreet, who could be a “potential face” for the party that would for the first time contest an assembly elections in Punjab in 2017.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has already ruled himself out as the chief ministerial candidate in Punjab and the AAP is now looking for a credible face with a clean image to lead the party in the state elections.
Rumours have also been doing the rounds that the AAP is “working on” cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu who apparently is “not in the good books” of the BJP leadership. “But there is no major progress on that front so far,” an AAP source said.
Manpreet’s PPP had secured 5% votes in the 2012 assembly elections, though he himself lost from Gidderbaha and Maur constituencies. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he contested from Bathinda on the Congress symbol but lost to SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, though by a thin margin of 19,874 votes.
In the recent past, many leaders from different parties have joined the AAP, prompting Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh to remark that the new party is “turning out to be a junkyard for the political deadwood.”
But all eyes are now on the Maghi mela, which has become a significant political event in the recent years with all political parties going all out to make their presence felt. Kejriwal, too, will be addressing a rally on the occasion.