The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has in the past proudly held to a principled stand of “no alliance” in elections, exuding confidence of winning on its own. However, its move to share five of the 117 assembly seats with an “under construction” party shows a shakiness among its leaders barely two months before Punjab goes to high-stake polls.
It is a new feeling though. The party was doing well for itself early this year when it looked almost invincible. In January, when its national convener Arvind Kejriwal announced from the Maghi Mela stage that the party will win 100 seats in Punjab elections, most agreed it was possible. Now 10 months later, AAP’s handing out five seats to another party to contest reinforces the perception that it has lost some ground in the state.
In September, party’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann had ruled out alliance with anyone saying the party’s constitution “did not allow” such pre-election tie-ups. On Monday, party’s convener Gurpreet Singh Waraich said there was no such rule in the party’s constitution and it was more like a “principle”.
“We can tie up with persons who are on a similar mission like ours. It is like car pooling. The destination is the same so why waste fuel?” he said in a press conference here. And why not an alliance and seat sharing with former Congress leader Jagmeet Brar’s Lokhit Abhiyaan? “He wanted to support us and that is how it happened,” said Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh. It is obvious the party has given its principled stand a miss for political compulsions, probably waking for the first time to the possibility of hung assembly in Punjab.
The perception that the AAP wave in the state has shrunk since August is also borne out by the party’s move to kiss and make up with cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. In his press conference in September where he announced the creation of Awaaz-e-Punjab, Sidhu had lashed out at Kejriwal. And yet in the last week of October, AAP leaders were holding parleys with him in a last bid effort to woo him into the party. The immediate provocation, it is said, was the lacklustre response of Punjabis to Kejriwal’s three-day tour to the state.
The choice of partners also belies the party’s stand. The Punjab Insaaf Party is a new outfit led by two independent MLAs – the Bains brothers — who though had joined the Akalis after the 2012 elections, have established their anti-Badal credentials. In the past two years, the two brothers took on the Akalis on various issues with the help of dedicated supporters as “Team Insaaf’. But beyond the two brothers having a staunch following in pockets of Ludhiana, there is nothing much they can offer the AAP.