Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebel Dr Dharamvira Gandhi’s plan to stitch up a fourth front in Punjab before the assembly elections has failed to take off.
With hopes of floating “a regional party to fight for true federal powers to the state”, the Patiala MP gathered AAP splinter groups Swaraj Party (led by professor Manjit Singh), Amritsar volunteers, and Apna Punjab Party for a “round-table conference” here on Sunday. Akali rebel Pargat Singh of the Awaaz-e-Punjab forum also came over. The meeting went on for three hours but arrived at nothing.
The suspended AAP MP later told the media that “I would like the amalgam of these dissidents to contest the elections as a political front of the state’s own people”. He clarified that he would not contest, as he would like to remain the MP of Patiala, “for the people who elected me”.
Dr Gandhi had two big hopes. The first, sacked Punjab AAP convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, sent only his representatives to the conference. The second — the Bains brothers (Simarjeet Singh and Balwinder Singh) and Pargat Singh — he hoped will form a strong front of “right-thinking leaders to challenge the SAD and the AAP on the state’s indigenous issues”.
“This (the 2017 polls) is an examination for Navjot Sidhu, Chhotepur, and the Bains brothers,” he said. “They must prove to be leaders of Punjab.” AAP dissidents Hardip Singh Kingra and Pavittar Singh, besides former Akali legislator Harish Rai Thanda were present.
Ranging from the Punjab’s rights to its river waters to the Amendment to Article 25 for constitutional recognition of Sikhism as a religion separate from Hinduism, the items on the agenda were a challenge to rivals Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and AAP. Dr Gandhi dubbed the SAD the “common enemy” that was “no different from the Congress and other national parties that take their orders from the high-commands in Delhi”.
Pargat Singh accused these parties of having “a colonial mindset”. “Their cadres are meek,” he said. “They raise their voice only after being ousted.” Dr Gandhi hoped for another meeting.