The central crisis in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) following the sacking of leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the national executive has the Punjab party MPs divided on the issue, which will have a negative impact on its volunteers in the state.
The leader of AAP in Lok Sabha and Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi is siding with the sacked leaders, while Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa are with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The view of Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh is not known.
The move has hurt the AAP workers, who were hoping to create history in the 2017 Assembly polls in the state. Punjab is the only state to have returned four AAP MPs to Parliament.
This division of AAP leadership in the state will further disillusion the youth. The AAP MPs and party's Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur not working in close coordination is also harming the party, which was being seen as game changer in Punjab politics.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the AAP had received 24.4% of the total votes in Punjab, securing a lead in 33 assembly segments and remaining second in 25. The AAP's vote share was only 2% less than that of the SAD's, which got 26% votes, while the Congress got 33% votes and the BJP 9.7%. Following this, the AAP was hoping for a good show in the 2017 assembly elections.
Avneet Singh, a young supporter, said, "Today's development has once again proved that the AAP is like other parties - hungry for power. The youth supported it in big way in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The rift has proved that the party lacks vision and is also restricted to pure politics, not Swaraj, which they talked during the campaign."
Gandhi admitted the fact. "The move by Kejriwal is a setback to the AAP and its workers. Our volunteers are not like other party workers who work for the high command. Our volunteers and supporters joined the AAP for a mission and transparency, which was lost today. The entire episode was undemocratic and Kejriwal's role is under suspicion."
Gandhi said the AAP was learning the tricks of other parties, and from "a party with a difference and democratic process" it would soon be like other political parties that are controlled by the high command.
"It is a murder of democracy, of which we had projected ourselves as true saviours," Gandhi said, adding that "people in Punjab will be disillusioned".
On the other hand, Mann welcomed the move to sack the leaders. The decision on Yadav and Bhushan would have no effect on Punjab, he said, adding, "The issue is over and we will start focusing on Punjab. Earlier, the delay on the issue was sending a wrong signal to people."
Mann claimed that the national council meeting was conducted in a democratic manner and Yadav was even given the chance to speak but he walked out.
Harinder Singh Khalsa, Fatehgarh Sahib MP, said, "It is a good riddance and I stand by the party decision. Many people have congratulated the party for such stringent action against the senior leaders. It will send a good message among the public that indiscipline cannot be tolerated at any cost. The move will not affect the Punjab politics."