After blocking Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh’s planned political gatherings in Canada, US-based activist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has now trained guns on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
SFJ has lodged a formal complaint against the AAP with the Canadian foreign affairs minister asking the federal government to intervene with respect to AAP’s ongoing election-related activities within the country Canada and block the proposed visit of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Its April 27 letter to minister Stéphane Dion states that by targeting non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada, canvassing for their votes and holding fundraising events, the AAP is conducting campaigns in that country Canada and has established a foreign political movement there, both of which violate the express terms of “Global Affairs Canada” Policy.
Seeking parity in application of the policy to all foreign political parties, it says, “The Canadian government must raise the same objections with the Indian government in respect of AAP’s activities as it raised in respect of the Congress activities as inconsistent application of the policy risks creating a misguided perception that the Canadian government favours certain Indian political parties over others”.
‘AAP, Congress poll rivals’
Stating that AAP was a rival of the Congress, SFJ says the two parties are competing in the upcoming 2017 assembly elections in Punjab.
“After Amarinder announced the cancellation of his planned election activities, the AAP is still engaged in election activities in Canada that are contrary to the policy. The AAP Canada’s Facebook page and news articles are presenting Kejriwal as “the only hope” for Punjab and asking NRIs to reach India under campaign, ‘Chalo Punjab’, exhorting them to reach the state by December 1 this year,” it adds.
‘Thousands of dollars being collected’
Speaking to HT, US attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser to SFJ, said the Facebook page of AAP Canada clearly mentions its mission is to hold membership drive for AAP in Canada through various awareness programmes, including nagar kirtans at Vancover.
“AAP leader HS Phoolka campaigned in Canada in February-March and Kejriwal too is expected to visit before elections. AAP MP Bhagwant Mann has been collecting thousands of dollars from Canada, first for People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and now AAP. Phoolka claimed that Amarinder’s programme was cancelled as it could have created law and order issues. Feigning ignorance of the law is no alibi. AAP volunteers in Canada know establishing a political movement is against the law. If this is how AAP is trying to manipulate the law, Punjab should be beware,” Pannun said.
With newspaper reports as annexures, the complaint says between Toronto and Vancouver, the party raised nearly Rs 2 crore for the Delhi elections. “Volunteers expect to do better this time because, unlike the Delhi campaign, there is no language barrier in the case of Punjab,” it said.
On January 30 this year, an AAP affiliate in Toronto held “Punjab 2017 Kickstart Campaign Event” to raise funds for the 2017 election campaign noting that tickets could be purchased by donating $50 at donate.aamaadmiparty.org, i.e. directly to AAP in India,” it adds.
‘Capt’s Skype campaign also violation’
The SFJ memorandum also raises objection to the Congress deciding to “go ahead with prescheduled programmes in Canada with Amarinder addressing some of these programmes through Skype. “Nothing in the policy suggests that by addressing Canadian audiences via Skype, or from across the US border, rather than from within Canada, Amarinder would no longer violate the Policy. These activities remain foreign election campaigns conducted in Canada, in violation of the policy,” it claims.
SFJ didn’t spare even me: Badal
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has taken on US-based organisation Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), saying though its name sounds democratic, the body actually is opposed to anyone wishing to have a democratic dialogue with the Punjabi diaspora. “They spared none,” he said, “including me, Captain Amarinder Singh, and Sonia Gandhi.”
Denying allegations laid by Amarinder that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was behind scuttling his Canada and the US tours, the CM said: “When Amarinder says anything, just turn it upside down to get the reality.” Badal claimed he had been the first to raise voice against Canada’s denying Amarinder permission to interact with its Punjabis. “A democracy, he said, should allow all people to express their views.