Anger against the Delhi-based central leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spilled over as the Punjab unit held a chintan (introspection) meeting in Jalandhar on Monday to discuss the recent polls in the state in which the party finished a distant second with 20 seats after initially claiming it would win 100 of the 117 seats.
In the meeting at which no one from the Delhi leadership was present, a number of leaders who contested the polls blamed the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh and organisation-building head Durgesh Pathak in particular. Many candidates openly stated that the party’s leadership failed to assess the “real nature of Punjabi voters” and kept focusing the campaign on party convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“Whereas the Congress had Captain Amarinder Singh as its face, and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had Parkash Singh Badal, we simply kept avoiding the issue of the chief ministerial face. That confused voters,” a number of MLAs and candidates were quoted as saying by sources among the gathering at the closed-door meeting.
The sources said the leaders pointed out how the Delhi leadership on the one side kept saying that Kejriwal won’t be Punjab CM and at the same time kept focusing the campaign on him, a non-Punjabi, with slogans like ‘Kejriwal- Kejriwal, Sara Punjab Tere Naal’. “What added fuel to the fire was the statement of Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia about Kejriwal as the real CM of Punjab,” said at least two leaders. Sisodia had said that people should vote by “assuming that Kejriwal will be chief minister, as it will be his duty to get promises fulfilled by whoever becomes CM”.
Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann; leader of opposition HS Phoolka; party’s state convener Gurpreet Ghuggi, and MLAs Kanwar Sandhu, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, and Aman Arora, were on stage where every participant was given time to speak his/her heart out.
Source said Ghuggi tried to change the subject when some of the leaders were speaking, but was told to “get a reality check”.
The leaders demanded control of the party’s state wing to Punjabis with minimum role of central leaders. It was almost a unanimous voice of the candidates that now the time is ripe for AAP central leaders to “have faith in Punjabis,” multiple sources told HT.
Later, while talking to the media, Ghuggi admitted that the leaders of Punjab demanded full control on the state wing, and that the issue would be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the political affairs committee (PAC), the decision-making body of the AAP.
About other issues raised in the meeting, Ghuggi said that it was a unanimous voice that failure of projecting a chief ministerial candidate “proved costly” for the party and that “overenthusiasm” among party workers also went against the party’s prospects.
4 takeaways from AAP meet: Why party did not perform well
1. Autocratic behaviour of Delhi leadership
2. No CM face
3. Ignoring Punjabi leadership
4. Links with radical elements disliked by Hindus and moderate Sikhs