Till a month back, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was not much of a political entity in Punjab. But that is no longer the story. Thanks to some of its candidates, the party is covering ground -- even in Punjab's rural areas.While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine want to ride on the "Modi wave" and the Congress is adamant that it will beat the anti-Congress mood of the electorate, it is AAP which is taking baby steps on Punjab's political frontline despite not having a full-fledged organizational structure in the state.
Having fielded candidates like comedian-actor Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur), lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka (Ludhiana), cardiologist-social activist Dharamveer Gandhi, Sucha Singh Chhotepur (Gurdaspur) and eye surgeon Daljit Singh (Amritsar), AAP has shown it is giving its best shot in the Lok Sabha battle.While not all the AAP candidates may be winners, those like Bhagwant Mann, H.S. Phoolka and Dharamveer Gandhi are definitely putting up a good fight. In their respective constituencies, these candidates have the potential of carrying the day through.
"Be it the people in Punjab's rural areas, youth or common people, the sentiment is building up for AAP. Arvind Kejriwal's recent roadshow attracted hundreds of people at most places he went to. The party may not have a charismatic leader in Punjab but it is making its presence felt," Patiala-based entrepreneur Aman Sharma told IANS.In rural areas too, farmers and their families seem to have got tired of choosing between the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress.
"We have tried the Akalis and the Congress. This time we will go for change and vote for AAP. We see some hope in the activist-type politics they do. The other two have done little for farmers and rural areas," middle-aged farmer Shamsher Singh of Sangrur told IANS.Even women seem to voice pro-AAP views in certain areas." AAP has fielded professionals and clean people from different fields. We should give them a chance too. We have experienced the other politicians who have turned out to be no good," said Puja Malhotra, a housewife in Amritsar's upscale Ranjit Avenue area.
Though the Akali-BJP and Congress leaders are dismissive of the AAP, they do take notice of the new party."This party is like leprosy. You (electorate) should shoo it away. They (AAP) got a chance to form a government in Delhi but they abandoned the responsibility. Not everyone can govern. Have you ever seen a chief minister leading dharnas on the streets?" Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal tells people at rallies.Former chief minister and Congress candidate from Amritsar Amarinder Singh dismisses AAP as a non-starter in Punjab. "They do not have any hold in Punjab. They will be routed," he says.