I P Singh
Jalandhar, 7 February 2017. A Panthic stream has always remained in the political scene of Punjab with different shades of Akali groups and leaders representing it at different times.
Now, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has acquired that space without projecting a Sikh as its chief ministerial face.
AAP has occupied the space for the time being, largely because the traditional Panthic representative, Shiromani Akali Dal, is facing opposition from the community.
AAP managed to attract several prominent Sikh activists towards it after Sirsa’s Dera Sacha Sauda announced support to SAD in the Punjab elections. Because many religious Sikhs still find it difficult to vote for Congress because of Operation Bluestar and the 1984 riots, AAP has become more acceptable to them in Punjab.
AAP had already tried to take away the Sikh card from SAD in the 2014 parliamentary elections by fielding senior advocate H S Phoolka, who became the face of the legal battle to get justice for the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots and former diplomat H S Khalsa, who had resigned from government in protest after Operation Bluestar.
Later, AAP party managed to rope in more Sikh faces without entrusting real leadership of the party in Punjab to them. It strongly raised issues of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari in Faridkot and subsequent firing on Sikh protesters at Behbal Kalan.
Though Sucha Singh Chhotepur’s sacking jolted AAP and sidelining of Punjab leaders became an issue, SAD’s unpopularity with several Sikh groups and activists helped Arvind Kejriwal & Co make inroads.
In the recent past, prominent Sikh faces who joined AAP included Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) former general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, leaders of Panthic Talmel Sangathan and Golden Temple priest Bhai Balbir Singh.
Many Sikh groups have openly come in support of AAP recently. Former jathedar of Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh has already extended support to AAP.
On social media also there have been several messages by Sikh leaders to neither forget the 1984 riotss nor the sacrilege. Despite SAD, Congress and the AAP dissidents repeatedly questioning party convener Arvind Kejriwal and other senior party leaders to name the CM candidate in Punjab, it has refused to take the bait.
“Yes, AAP has acquired the Panthic political space as there was vacuum. In this particular space, Kejriwal lent the Sikhs a ear and tried to understand their issues in the correct perspective.
Congress leaders are now realizing that AAP has become real challenge for them,” said former SGPC member Advocate Jaswinder Singh, who had resigned from SAD and joined AAP a few months back.
“They are raising bogey of terrorism only out of fear and Sikhs annoyed with SAD and Congress are supporting Kejriwal,” he said.