Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, May 15
Punjabi songs blare from loudspeakers as a cavalcade weaves through Jalandhar’s central areas such as Model Town and Urban Estate.
It’s a week before Punjab votes, and the Aam Aadmi Party has despatched its leaders from Delhi to rally support for the party’s state unit.
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia is in the city to campaign for AAP’s Jora Singh, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. His campaign agenda remains largely focused around the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but he also mentions the Congress.
“BJP ke liye ek hi mudda hai—Pakistan. BJP mein na rozgaar mudda bacha, na vyappar mudda bacha. Unke liye mudda hai—Pakistan (BJP has only one issue Pakistan. For them neither employment nor trade is an issue),” Sisodia tells reporters before his roadshow.
“False nationalism” is how he describes BJP’s, and Narendra Modi’s, campaign.
“The country is strengthened by education and unemployment. Can suspending trade, strengthen the country? Vote against this “farzi rashtravaad” (false nationalism),” he says.
About the Congress—a party with which AAP had unsuccessfully tried negotiating an alliance these elections—he says its issue is largely centred on the claim that they were the “primary opposition”, and therefore the only alternative to the BJP.
“But the AAP talks about education, health and employment. These are the real issues,” he says.
However, point out to the dwindling crowds at AAP’s rallies, and he remains defiant, saying they were doing better that it was in 2014.
“In 2014 also everyone laughed at us. They called us a 4-month-old party and made fun of us. AAP graph has gone up now. The party will claim 13 seats in the state.”
His words for rebels in the party’s Punjab unit, including some sitting members of parliament, are harsh.
“People don’t forgive those who quit a party before elections. Such people are viewed as traitors. People had trusted them as AAP candidates, they will not be forgiven.”
Ask him if, in the light of the latest incident of sacrilege reported from Sangrur, it was once again an issue in the state, and he avoids a direct answer, calling it “a local issue” and deflecting the question towards the candidate, Jora Singh.
“Beabdi kabhi bhi koi bhi kare—vo mudda hona chahiye. Beabdi mudda hai… sthaniya muddon par vo jawab denge (Whoever does desecration, it should be an issue. It is an issue. It is local issue (pointing to) Justice Jora Singh can give a better reply on the issue),” he says.
Former high court judge Jora Singh probed incidents of sacrilege in the state as one-man commission during the previous SAD-BJP regime.
Punjab votes in the last phase of general elections on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.