In 2017, they had a strong start on their debut run but faltered at the finishing line. In the last four-and-a-half years, the AAP has witnessed some turbulent times, grappling with factionalism and absence of a strong local leadership. But as the 2022 assembly elections close in, the party feels it has a strong chance yet again to dislodge the incumbent party. News18 caught up with Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Cheema on how Punjab AAP can shed the image of a Delhi-controlled unit and why there are delays in announcing a CM face.
Elections are just some months away. How do you rate your chances this time around?
We started off well in the state. We may not have won but we emerged as a principal opposition party. Over the last four years, we have managed to perform the role of watchdog ensuring that we call out all the wrong decisions of the government. And to a considerable extent, we have succeeded and based on that performance, we stand a good chance. People are fed up of Congress infighting, the poor track record of SAD and BJP in terms of governance. We do believe we have a good chance.
What difference do you see in your 2017 and 2022 preparation and the electoral fight?
We had contested for the first time in 2017 so we were testing new waters. Our cadre and local leadership was something that wasn’t tested before. But things have changed for better in these last four and a half years. Our cadre is more widespread and eager to go for a victory. Also, our local leadership has evolved into a strong one over this period. We can now effectively expose the Congress government which has failed to deliver on its promises. Also, we can take on the SAD as well whose past has been rooted into corruption and BJP over the ill-conceived farm laws.
Why do you say things are different? How do you sense that you have a chance?
We have already started reaching out to voters and look at Congress, which is still riddled with infighting. People of Punjab are watching. One, the Captain Amarinder government has failed to deliver and on the other hand, power lobbies in the party are busy pulling down each other. How will they concentrate on governance? And that is where we believe we can dislodge the party. The SAD too has a scarred past, people haven’t forgiven them for a faulty past. Their track record on ill-conceived PPAs – Punjab produces electricity and yet we have highest tariff in the country. Delhi, on the other hand, is not a power producing state and yet tariffs are low. So we want to replicate the Delhi model of good governance here in Punjab as well.
But it’s this Delhi model which comes under a cloud at times. Your rivals say you are managed by Delhi and you are not able to come up with effective local leadership?
I don’t agree. We have a strong battery of local leadership. Our President Bhagwant Mann has managed to raise the farmer’s issues effectively. Other leaders too have raised issues which matter to the people of Punjab. And in all of it, the local unit has been very vociferous.
So then why the delays in announcing a CM face? Kejriwal had announced long time back that it will be a Sikh face that entire Punjab will be proud of and will be announced soon. That hasn’t happened.
See, these matters take time. Consultations at our PAC level will begin and right announcement will be made at the right time.
But will the decision be taken by Arvind Kejriwal or the local leadership?
The central leadership in consultation with the local Punjab leadership will arrive at a final decision on who the CM face will be. The discussion will be held soon and local leaders will surely be part of the process.
Some of your senior party leaders like Bhagwant Mann had commented that some party workers were getting anxious over the delays in naming the CM face. Are there differences over the issue?
Not at all. All the local leaders are working in tandem. Mann has met Kejriwal also and has maintained that there are no differences. Punjab AAP is completely united on each and every issue. As Kejriwal had said, Punjab would be proud of the decision we take on the CM choice.