Exuding confidence, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made it clear that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal would lead the party campaign in the assembly elections in Punjab in 2017.
"Kejriwal is our supreme leader as he has rare qualities of leadership and understands the problems and issues concerning people and also tries to find solutions. He is a courageous leader and does what he commits in public," AAP's Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur said while giving a call to the party cadres to pull up their socks for the upcoming assembly polls.
Addressing a party conference on Rakhar Puniya here on Saturday, Chhotepur said no one could understand the problems of Punjab better than the Delhi chief minister. "Kejriwal may not be a farmer but he has a better understanding of the difficulties being faced by the agricultural community in Punjab. He gave away a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre for crop loss due to rain and hail, which was double the amount our own farmers' chief minister Parkash Singh Badal announced," the AAP leader said.
While Chhotepur set the tone of the conference by listing the importance of Kejriwal in Punjab, AAP incharge for Punjab, Sanjay Singh, sought to put at rest the fears of some of his party colleagues who had alleged that the Punjab unit of AAP was being 'hijacked' by outsiders. He gave this clarification as some leaders of the party had organised a parallel rally in Baba Bakala in which such allegations were made.
"I want to clarify that we (non-Punjabi leaders) will be here during the elections to help you and once our task is over we will go back to our respective states. We are all united under Kejriwal and will fight the Punjab elections to defeat the SAD-BJP alliance and bring back prosperity in the state," he said while addressing the conference.
MPs Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur) and Sadhu Singh Dharamkot (Faridkot) also stressed on the importance of Kejriwal vis-a-vis the Punjab polls. The other two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi (Patiala) and Harinder Singh Khalsa (Fatehgarh Sahib) were in a parallel rally attacking the AAP leadership instead of concentrating on issues that could matter in the assembly elections.
Attack on SAD-BJP
Mann, while attacking the SAD-BJP government, alleged that corruption in Punjab had crossed all limits. He regretted that the government had paid no attention to vital sectors like education and health.
Chhotepur said the people of Punjab wanted a change as they wanted a state free from drugs, unemployment and corruption. He made it clear that if AAP came to power, properties of the corrupt would be attached.
"We will not leave anyone who is corrupt. No taxes will be levied by our government as we will confiscate and sell the properties of the corrupt and make use of this money for the welfare of the public," he added while warning the police officers to refrain from booking AAP volunteers in false cases.
Warning to rebels
Without referring to the parallel rally of the party dissidents, Sanjay Singh made it clear that indiscipline would not be tolerated. He told them to fall in line or face action. Chhotepur also sounded a warning, saying, "You have seen what happened to those who rebelled against Kejriwal."
Besides the two MPs, Gandhi and Khalsa, the dissident rally was attended by Sufi singer Rabbi Shergill, senior leader Sumer Singh and Dr Daljit Singh, who was recently expelled from the party.
The two MPs claimed that outsiders were trying to dictate terms to the Punjab unit. In this context they made a reference to Sanjay Singh, who hails from Uttar Pradesh. Chhotepur, a former Akali, was interested only in including his "old Akali friends" into the party, they claimed.
They warned that if the AAP house was not put in order, a divided party stood no chance of doing a repeat of Delhi in Punjab.