A frontal attack on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for “nepotism” prevailing in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), digs at the Congress as a “failed and fragmented” opposition, and dubbing the BJP as “a communal party flaring up religious conversions” — speeches from the stage of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the historic Maghi Mela here sought to pitch it as a worthy contender for power in Punjab.
Half a kilometre away from the Congress conference that had a thin attendance of MLAs, the AAP leadership comprising all its four MPs from Punjab announced the target to topple the Akali-BJP regime in the next assembly elections due in 2017.
“The people of Punjab have sent the real voice of dissent through us (four AAP MPs) to the country’s Parliament, and I must share with you here that all four of us have spoken in the Lok Sabha for much more number of hours than the Akalis, whether it was the legislation on the land acquisition or the debate on drugs, corruption or unemployment,” said Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann.
Dig at the Badals came time and again from each of the AAP leaders, including state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur and MPs Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, Sadhu Singh and Harinder Singh Singh Khalsa, who also appealed to the people to hit the campaign trail in Delhi where the AAP is locked in a key battle.
“The party (AAP) is emerging fast in Punjab, and the entire Delhi too is in the mood of jubilation to bring Arvind Kejriwal back to power with absolute majority,” said Patiala MP Dr Gandhi. There was also a call to defeat “political clans” in Punjab “irrespective of party”.
In their rallies, both the SAD-BJP and the Congress leaders did not mention the AAP. The Kejriwal-led outfit, on the other hand, hit them for more than an hour and a half of fiery speeches.
The BJP also came under attack over religious conversions by organisations that also trace their lineage to the RSS. Sadhu Singh compared the scenario of the Hindu outfits’ “ghar wapsi” campaign with the forcible conversions of the Mughal era.
“Our Guru Gobind Singh addressed a congregation in 1699 and formed Khalsa, making the people strong enough to say no to religious conversion during the times of the Mughals; and now too we will not tolerate this ‘ghar wapsi’ concept,” said the Faridkot MP.
Not sparing the Congress on the drug menace issue, Khalsa, MP from Fathegarh Sahib, quipped that “Smack (supply) started in the regime of Capt Amarinder Singh only, and later when Akalis came to power they took over the drug business.”