Even as Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal met Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale, the Sikh preacher who faced a murderous attack recently, at his headquarters near here on Wednesday afternoon, the firebrand religio-political leader later told the media that he won’t back any political party in the assembly elections due in Punjab early next year.
Kejriwal was in for some criticism by suspended AAP MP from Patiala, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, too, who said he was “disturbed” over AAP going the “traditional-party way, into dera politics”.
At Gurdwara Parmeshwar Dwar near Shekhupura village, around 15km from Patiala, Kejriwal held a closed-door meeting with Dhadrianwale for about half an hour, in which the AAP’s Punjab unit convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, its Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh, party leader and human rights lawyer HS Phoolka, and former Congress MLA-turned-AAP spokesman Sukhpal Singh Khaira, were present too. However, Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann was conspicuous by his absence. Kejriwal didn’t talk to the media even though invitations had been sent on Tuesday.
Dhadrianwale told reporters after the meeting: “I have nothing to do with politics. Neither in the past nor in future would our outfit support any political party.” He said that like other political leaders Kejriwal had come to express his solidarity and condolences for demise of a follower-cum-fellow preacher in the May 17 attack near Ludhiana.
Kejriwal’s avoidance of questions was attributed to some state leaders not wanting him to visit the Sikh preacher, while another group was pressing him to call on Dhadrianwale, said AAP insiders. “AAP was known for alternative politics, thus we wanted Kejriwal not to visit Dhadrianwale or any sect, or dera. By doing that, the AAP is losing its distinct identity of doing politics with a difference,” said a leader requesting anonymity. Kejriwal has in the past few months visited at least three deras in the Doaba belt too, while Dhadrianwale’s headquarters is in the heart of Malwa region, the largest of the three cultural divisions of Punjab, the third being Majha.
Earlier, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy CM and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, AAP’s state incharge Sanjay Singh, and Congress MLAs Preneet Kaur and Sunil Jakhar have visited the Sikh preacher.
Dr Gandhi too expressed grief over the death of Bhupinder Singh, Dhadrianwale’s fellow preacher who was shot dead in the attack near Ludhiana on May 17. But he added, “I also express anguish at the way various political parties are vying with each others to curry favours with one or the other sect in order to take political advantage out of such unfortunate incidents.” Such policies would promote strife among Sikh sects and divert attention from the failures of the SAD-BJP government, he added.