No Alliance With Congress in Punjab, AAP to Contest All 13 Lok Sabha Seats, Says Kejriwal in New Blow to INDIA

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab as well as the Chandigarh seat, party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced on Saturday. News18 had earlier reported that there would be no alliance between the AAP and Congress, both constituents of the opposition parties’ INDIA bloc, in Punjab.

“Two years ago, you had blessed us with 92 out of 117 seats (in Assembly elections). You had scripted history. Today, with folded hands, I seek your blessings again. In another two months, Lok Sabha elections will be held. Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha seats, and one seat in Chandigarh. In all, there are 14 seats. In the coming 10-15 days, the AAP will declare candidates for all the 14 Lok Sabha seats. I request you to bless us in the same manner you had done two years ago. Make AAP win in all 14 seats,” Kejriwal said at a rally in Khanna, Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab.

The AAP convenor did not spare INDIA partner Congress in his appeal to the voters. “In the past 75 years, Congress ruled for so many years. If I ask you to tell me one good work that the Congress has done, you will struggle to remember. Akali Dal ruled for so many years. If I ask you to tell me one good work of the Akalis, you will not remember. If I ask you what good work has CM Bhagwant Mann done in the past two years, you will tell me that he has made electricity free and it is available 24 hours a day which they could not do in 75 years,” he said.

On February 13, the highest decision-making body of the AAP, the Political Affairs Committee, will meet to finalise candidates for Goa, Gujarat and Haryana. Despite being a critical constituent of the INDIA bloc, the AAP has already unilaterally declared one candidate – Chaitar Vasava – from the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat.

It has also declared three candidates — Manoj Dhanowar, Bhaben Chowdhury and Rishi Raj — from Dibrugarh, Gawahati and Sonepat, respectively, in Assam.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sandeep Pathak, a key negotiator in talks within the INDIA bloc, has said that the party was “tired of talks” that led to “no consequence” and expected the other parties in the INDIA bloc to “accept” AAP’s candidates.

“I would urge and request the INDIA bloc and all partners to sort all pending and outstanding issues. All the seat-sharing talks should be sorted and brought to conclusion,” he said. On Punjab specifically, Pathak had said: “We have decided mutually that AAP and Congress would fight separately in Punjab Lok Sabha elections”.

Crucially, this leaves only Delhi where an AAP-Congress alliance is on the table. According to sources, if there is an inordinate delay in finalising seat-sharing, the AAP will go ahead and declare candidates for Delhi, leaving one or two constituencies for the Congress.

Punjab Chief Minister Mann announced during Kejriwal’s rally that the AAP would declare 13 candidates in Punjab and one in Chandigarh in the next 10 to 15 days. “We will win 14/14. You (the voters) give us your support,” said Mann.

He also highlighted the controversial Chandigarh mayoral polls in his speech. “We will definitely win Chandigarh. You heard what the Supreme Court said about the Chandigarh mayor elections. You heard how the votes were counted; how BJP votes were not tampered with and our voted were declared invalid.”

“They cancelled eight votes of the 36 votes, that is 25%. When they can cancel 25% of votes while counting just 36 votes, what will they do when they count 90 crore votes? Even the Supreme Court was stunned when it saw the footage. We will face lathis

Lashing out at rival parties, including the Congress, Mann said: “They don’t have any agenda. They are all fighting with each other. In Congress, there are as many voices as there are people.”

The AAP and Congress had come together for the first time to jointly contest the Chandigarh mayoral elections. It was billed as the first test of the INDIA bloc.

The reasons for AAP and Congress going it alone in Punjab are multi-fold. The Congress has seven sitting MPs and will not settle for less than that number. The AAP’s only success in Lok Sabha elections has come from Punjab and it believes it can reap a good harvest of seats from the state. The AAP is the ruling party in the state, while the Congress is the main opposition and if the two come together, they would be leaving the opposition space wide open, giving a chance for the Akalis to revive. Lastly, the BJP is not that big a factor in Punjab.

Taking a dig at Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Mann said: “We are not like them. He (Sukhbir Badal) is on a ‘parivaar bachao yatra’, not ‘Punjab bachao yatra’. Why should you save him? He finished Punjab.”

Countering the narrative of the opposition that Punjab was being ruled from Delhi, Mann said Badal and (Partap Singh) Bajwa were a new category of “unemployed” who now have no work, whereas he and Kejriwal were professionals who gave up their work to join politics. Targeting the BJP, Mann said the party has “no prospects in Punjab” given how it dealt with the farmers’ agitation in 2020.

Kejriwal and Mann also launched the government’s ambitious doorstep delivery of ration scheme in Fatehgarh. The scheme is among Kejriwal’s pet projects, but couldn’t be implemented in Delhi due to objections by the Centre which said the Delhi government cannot use the foodgrain given by it for the scheme. This was later upheld by the courts.

The two later addressed a rally at the Khanna Mandi in Fatehgarh Sahib. Calling it a “historic day”, Mann said: “The quality of atta that will be given will be the same as that consumed by all ministers and me. It will not be leftover or spoiled flour.” He assured his government had plugged leakages in the system like middlemen siphoning off the produce.

“I had seen this dream 15 years ago. I used to work in the slums of Delhi before entering politics. I saw how ration meant for people is stolen. Since then, we have been fighting,” Kejriwal said. “When we formed the government in Delhi, we tried to tried to implement ‘Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana’ in Delhi. But suddenly, the BJP-ruled central government stalled it.”

Kejriwal said the scheme would not be limited to Punjab and in 5-10 years would be replicated across the country. “No party or neta will have the courage to stop this. It will be implemented in all states, every corner of the country.”

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