Kolkata: The Sikh community in Kolkata had expected the Aam Aadmi Party to win the Punjab elections. But none of them had predicted the victory to be this convincing and feel it is a never-before opportunity for the party led by Arvind Kejriwal to prove its mettle in the next year-and-a-half to emerge as a serious contender for leadership on the national stage.
“With two states under the belt, AAP has now taken a lead over all other regional parties. But Delhi was just half a state. Punjab presents multiple challenges and if Kejriwal’s team can deliver on the promises, then he will stand tall among Opposition party leaders,” said city businessman Gurdeep Singh, whose ancestral home is in Punjab’s Dhuri constituency in Sangrur district from where AAP’s CM candidate Bhagwant Mann contested and won.
Olympian Gurbux Singh, who is a representative of the Sikh community in the minorities commission in Bengal, feels it is more about people of Punjab being fed up with Akali Dal and Congress that led to AAP being given an opportunity this time.
“Many had thought AAP would form the government in 2017. But people gave Congress yet another opportunity. Unfortunately, the infighting in the party and the corruption in both Congress and Akalis proved their bane. There was also the drug problem. People simply wanted change,” said Singh.
While the infighting in Congress led to many including former tourism minister Jagmohan Singh Kang and his son switching over to AAP weeks before the polls, Akali Dal’s image took a beating over its alleged control over sand mining, brick kilns and ownership of more than 500 buses. “Corruption is there in every state. But in Punjab, it has become in the face of people requiring to pay money to get everything done,” pointed out restaurateur Manjit Singh.
The farmers’ agitation also played a crucial role in Punjab politics with the Delhi AAP government’s indirect support to the farmers by providing water and electricity helping the party’s cause. “The small neighbourhood meetings that AAP conducted instead of big rallies also led to better connection with the people,” he pointed out.
Businessman Satnam Singh Ahluwalia, who was in Punjab during the election and felt the voters’ inclination towards AAP, says the party’s real challenge would be to replicate its success in Delhi as Punjab has a large rural population and is primarily agrarian.
“For Punjab’s sake, everyone is hoping he and Kejriwal are able to prove that they are astute politicians,” said Ahluwalia.