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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

PPP was in merger talks, says AAP, Manpreet refutes

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 16, 2014
First Published: 11:42 IST(16/1/2014) | Last Updated: 11:48 IST(16/1/2014)

While Punjab's ruling and opposition parties are in a blame game over drug nexus, the two third-front alternatives are also trading charges on why a possible alliance between them failed to materialise.

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Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Yogendra Yadav this week ruled out the possibility of a pact with Manpreet Singh Badal-led People's Party of Punjab (PPP). This after Manpreet and Yadav met in New Delhi after the AAP made a dream debut in the Delhi assembly elections.

Riding high on success, the AAP said it was willing for a merger and not a coalition.

On why the talks failed, AAP spokesperson Naveen Jairath on Wednesday said here: "Manpreet had accepted our offer for a merger but the majority of our district conveners from Punjab voted against it, saying a merger will benefit only the PPP, as Manpreet has paid only lip service to his agenda since losing the 2012 election and done no work on the ground."

"Manpreet is concentrating on the Bathinda seat only. He was popular before the assembly elections but things have since changed, and he is not getting much support at the grass-roots level. He earlier decided to have a truck with the Congress but came to us after the Congress graph went down," said Jairath.

Asked to react, Manpreet denied any talks of a merger or any question of it. "We have our own agenda and we are on course. We do not want to piggyback on the success of the Aam Aadmi Party. Punjab does not need sops and populism. The state's economy and education, and other sectors need to be fixed.

Our political ideology may be the same but the PPP has a wider agenda and no nervousness that the AAP will steal its vote. The more the merrier. I look at not positions but Punjab's future," said Manpreet.

While the PPP says the talks were for coalition, Jairath says the AAP constitution disallows it.

However, PPP leader Gurpreet Bhatti says the final word on the alliance is yet to come. "We have the same ideology and same leaderless and goalless opponents (the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress).

We are still hopeful that like-minded parties will come together against them," said Bhatti.

The PPP's talks with the Congress too have been unfruitful, since the latter was willing to concede only two seats, both of its choice (Bathinda, against Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and Faridkot). The PPP was ready to accept one and asked for Anandpur Sahib as own choice.

Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa also has ruled out any pact with the PPP, citing "indecision" by Manpreet, who sees the PPP still relevant as third front even with entry of the AAP in Punjab.

Many of his Manpreet's office-bearers and workers have switched loyalty to Arvind Kejriwal. Having faced a string of desertions since his floating the PPP, Manpreet may face more, if the popularity chart of the AAP soars in the run-up to the parliamentary contest.


Not so Aam Aadmi?
The Aam Aadmi Party may have kept the promise of ending the VIP culture and making politicians accessible but its new office-bearers are no so aam (common) after all. AAP's Punjab convener Harjot Singh Bains did not respond to the calls; and spokesman Naveen Jairath called back only after a text message that the caller is a reporter of an English daily.

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