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Kejriwal may skip Canada visit to ‘avoid controversy’

world Updated: Sep 24, 2016 01:38 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal initiates the fogging drive from his residence in new Delhi on Thursday. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The real Arvind Kejriwal didn’t make an appearance, his reel version did.

The Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader was scheduled to be in Canada this summer, apparently to address the large Punjabi diaspora before the Punjab assembly elections, due next year.

But the visit was cancelled, apparently because Canadian rules forbid foreign politicians from running electoral campaigns in the country.

Instead, disappointed AAP supporters in Canada had to be content with their leader appearing in a documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The official reason is that Kejriwal had other commitments. But an AAP member explained: the real cause was “because Captain happened”.

The reference was to Punjab Congress chief and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s planned trip in April, which was aborted after the hardline group, Sikhs For Justice, approached Global Affairs Canada to bar him from canvassing in the country. Singh was forced to call off the Canada leg of his North American tour.

That appears to be an eye-opener for the AAP. The party’s convener in Punjab, Gurpreet Ghuggi, recently completed a visit to the US. He bypassed Canada.

In effect, Kejriwal may be trying to avoid the embarrassment Singh suffered.

In an emailed response, Global Affairs Canada stated: “Foreign electoral campaigns in Canada run counter to well-established Canadian policy … We expect foreign states to ensure that any activity planned in Canada involving their governments or elected officials is in full accordance with this Canadian policy.”

As a consolation more than two dozen AAP activists attended the world premiere screening of the documentary, An Insignificant Man, at the Toronto fest.

“It’s a very good movie. Being an AAP supporter, it was good revision for me about what all happened (prior to the 2013 Delhi assembly elections). I feel now there’s no need to worry. We are more optimistic and confident,” party volunteer Sudeep Singla said.

The party’s national secretary Sumesh Handa called the screening at TIFF “an honour to the common man”.

The documentary could become part of the party’s outreach campaign. At the very least, Kejriwal could well be travelling around Canada — as a projected image in a cinema.

The AAP convenor in Canada, Jaskirat Mann, said the party has nearly 10,000 registered members in the North American country and the number of supporters would be five times more.

The party raised nearly Rs 50 lakh from donors in Canada in August and volunteers were engaged in kirtans, picnics and kabaddi tournaments to shore up support, she said.

“They’re creating more fuss all over, but everything is really good at ground level,” she said from Punjab, the state she’s touring now.