Without the backing of parental Swaraj Abhiyan led by Yogendra Yadav, the movement’s Punjab workers, who use the name Sawaraj Lehar, on Sunday floated own Swaraj Party, resolving to “rekindle the spirit of self-rule in the state”.
The party was announced at a state convention organised here under the leadership of Manjit Singh, even as it passed a resolution for “sticking to the constitution that asserts autonomy in public affairs and grants space to the conflicting interests of Punjab”. The professor said this was an independent decision of the Lehar (Abhiyan’s Punjab unit), as there was a need to give the people of Punjab “political space for alternative politics”.
The other resolutions adopted at the state convention included fighting for “free healthcare and education, a debt-free rural Punjab, a drug-free state, expansion of the employment guarantee scheme, and its extension to urban Punjab”. “Punjab’s people have been used by the traditional political parties as mere voters for securing the seat of power,” the resolution read.
“There was an urgent need for a political party that had sprung from below and was based on the principles of ‘swaraj’ (self-rule). Article 11 of the party constitution reads that swaraj underlines fighting all sorts of exclusion, discrimination, and domination. Swaraj means cooperation, decentralisation of power, decision-making, and right to life with dignity,” it said.
Swaraj Abhiyan’s Jammu unit leader ID Khajuria also addressed the Punjab convention, explaining self-rule as a space “for a bigger autonomy to the state that also needed a special status”.
At a press conference, later, professor Manjit Singh said he endorsed what Khajuria said on the stage. The Lehar’s Punjab cadre said their parent Aam Aadmi party (AAP) had failed to implement its own motto of ‘swaraj’. “The AAP now is no different from other parties in making money from ticket for the assembly elections,” said Lehar’s Talwandi Sabo leader Satnam Singh.
The national Swaraj Abhiyan issued a quick dissent note, disowning the move by its Punjab cadre of floating the party. “This initiative has not been sponsored by Swaraj Abhiyan, though many colleagues associated with this initiative are from our movement in Punjab. The decision has not been taken in accordance with the due process laid down by the Abhiyan,” its spokesman Anupam said in a press release.
“However, Punjab does need alternative politics to rid itself of the Akali-BJP misrule. The Congress and the AAP have proven incompetent of being true alternatives. We wish the proposed Swaraj Party well and would like to have fraternal relationship with it,” the press release added. “We decided to lay down some parameters of transparency, accountability and inner party democracy to prove ourselves on these criterion before forming a party, and our second national steering committee had passed a resolution to that effect,” it stated.
The Abhiyan has also released a calendar of its internal organisation election. “Since the decision of the Punjab colleagues doesn’t follow this process, we can’t endorse it,” the release added.
Dr Gandhi endorses move
AAP Lok Sabha member Dr Dharamveera Gandhi has endorsed the launch of the new party in Punjab. Congratulating the state’s Swaraj Abhiyan/Lehar workers, he stated in his message: “This will give a new political direction to the people of Punjab. I am all for it, even though I couldn’t attend their convention.”