LESS than two months after summarily dethroning his Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal has decided to lay down arms. The organisational mayhem was not limited to the Assembly. The AAP also dissolved all its overseas organisations while loyalists of the dismissed LoP Sukhpal Khaira and his small band of MLAs faced the heat. Now in a characteristic U-turn, one that brooks no explanations, by-your-leave or clarification, Kejriwal has decreed his camp followers in AAP Punjab to reach out to their former fellow travellers — disgruntled, disillusioned or plain rebellious. Has Kejriwal finally woken up to the slow pirouette of emasculation his Punjab unit has been undergoing?
Even if the AAP convener senses a loss of gravitas with the departure of many hardboiled political players, the call to reconvene under the jhadu symbol can hardly be heeded unless there is a change in the ground situation. The move also smacks of acute self-interest. Sitting MP Dharamvira Gandhi has been treated as an outcaste ever since he decried the Delhi caucus and its calculated coup against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. Sukhpal Khaira was shown the door to over a variety of factors including the anoinment of Bhagwant Mann as the power center in Punjab. It is no secret that the Punjab chapter is hopelessly split between Delhi loyalists and the autonomy seekers. Have those conditions that led to their departure been addressed to permit them to rejoin with their self-respect intact?
AAP’s ‘Punjab Jodo’ rally in Jagraon saw a healthy turnout, indicating considerable residual disaffection over the two-party duopoly on state politics. The patchy Congress report card and the father-son lock on Akali Dal leaves a political vacuum that is waiting to be exploited. There is much in Punjab that needs mending but the AAP is unlikely to make much headway without removing its organisational cobwebs. This means reverting to the previous promise of a bottoms-up approach and transparency in decision-making, especially in Delhi. A mere call to forget past hurts still leaves the causes for disaffection unaddressed.