The breakaway group of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) working under the banner of Swaraj Abhiyan, or Swaraj Lehar in Punjab, is set for a key state convention on Sunday, May 29, at which its plans to launch a political party would be put up for a formal discussion.
With the immediate target being the Punjab assembly polls due early next year, after the intention is made public at the convention, a formal announcement would be made in another month after that, sources in the group’s think tank told HT. “We have formed 11 district committees,” said a top ex-AAP member who is now with the group, “And we will form another three, if not four, committees in the coming week, after which the roadmap for a party will be laid out.”
This came on the eve of AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s another visit to Punjab, this time to meet Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale who faced a murderous attack near Ludhiana last week in which one of his fellow preachers was shot dead.
Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav had last month, at the first-year anniversary of the group, said that it would hold internal polls at district level to form a national committee “in the next two-three months” that would take a decision regarding formation of a party at the all-India level.
When contacted on Tuesday, Lehar/Abhiyan state convener Manjit Singh said, “All issues concerning Punjab, including the matter of forming a party, will be put up for views at the general convention, our first such.”
“Swaraj Lehar is not a mere NGO. We made the promise of a political front,” Manjit said, echoing what Yadav said last month, and added, “There is pressure to form launch a political outfit. For that, there is a process on in Delhi, at the all-India level, and here. In light of that we have called this convention.”
In the May 29 gathering that is likely to witness around 400 people in attendance, leaders present would include Manjit, who is a former Panjab University professor; staff union leader Harbans Singh Dholewal, and trade union leader and former MLA Tarsem Jodhan.
Yadav said over the phone that he won’t be at the May 29 meeting as he was travelling for a padyatra over the drought issue that would conclude in Bundelkhand region on May 31. He stressed, “There is no official party launch on May 29 as such... But we are already committed to providing an alternative in Punjab and intervening in the state’s politics. We are working on putting up a genuine alternative and making efforts in the leadership of Dr Dharamvira Gandhi (suspended AAP MP from Patiala).”
There is talk that the two suspended AAP MPs — Dr Gandhi, and Harinder Singh Khalsa from Fatehgarh Sahib — would join the new group, though there is difference of opinion on that between the two leaders who have openly associated with the Abhiyan.
The group had backed AAP’s 2014 Lok Sabha candidate Bhai Baldeep Singh as an Independent for the Khadoor Sahib bypoll, but he was disqualified on technical grounds. Baldeep, when contacted, said he was not part of the policy-making group of the Abhiyan, but would be open to helping form an alternative platform. “I am neither with Arvind, nor with anyone else. I am with the idea of alternative politics. If Swaraj Abhiyan members are to formulate a political ideology, I will study it and join if I am convinced,” he said.
Suspended MPs differ: ‘Let AAP expel us; why resign?’
Amid talk that AAP breakaway group Swaraj Abhiyan was set to launch a party that would contest the 2017 Punjab polls, AAP’s suspended MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi on Tuesday told HT that he would not resign from the Lok Sabha to be able to join any new party. “The AAP should expel me first,” he said, a day after Khalsa was quoted as saying that both would resign “soon”. “I would also tell Khalsa-ji to not resign and wait for what the AAP does in the next few months,” Dr Gandhi added. “People have elected me for five years... I won’t run away from the duty.”
To a question, he replied, “If AAP expels me — which they should as I have already replied to their showcause many months ago — I am open to the option. And if I find at some places AAP has put up corrupt candidates, I will support Swaraj Abhiyan candidates.” Khalsa did not respond to calls and text messages.
On going back to AAP, Gandhi said there were “no possibilities” since “Arvind cannot stand a voice of reason” and “wants only sycophants around himself”.