AAP breakaway group forms Swaraj Party, to contest Punjab Assembly election next year

The three-cornered contest in the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections (SAD-BJP, Congress and AAP) has got a new entrant. After months of deliberations, Swaraj Lehar or Swaraj Abhiyan, the breakaway group of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab on Sunday announced the formation of Swaraj Party to contest assembly elections in Punjab next year.

The announcement came after a convention in Chandigarh on Sunday in which a large number of delegates of Swaraj Lehar, from all over Punjab, unanimously passed a resolution for the formation of the political outfit, namely Swaraj Party with professor (retired) Manjit Singh as its president.

Yogendra Yadav. PTI

The national level Swaraj Party under Yogendra Yadav will be formed at a later stage. File image. PTI

Talking to Firstpost, Singh said a state working committee of 41 members has been constituted to expand the base of the newly formed Swaraj party at the block and village level. Swaraj Lehar had earlier enrolled members from all over the state and in half the districts already elected district committees have been constituted. The organising of district committees in the remaining 11 districts would be completed in the next two weeks, he said.

The convention unanimously elected Manjit Singh as party president, Santokh Singh Aujla as senior vice-president, G B Sahota vice-president and Harbans Singh Dhalewal is the general secretary.

Manjit Singh said Swaraj Party will be a state level party. The national level Swaraj Party under Yogendra Yadav will be formed at a later stage. Taking into account its limited resources, manpower and fund, the Swaraj Party will contest only on a few seats in Punjab Assembly elections. The party will not go for any alliance with other parties and will not compromise on its policies and principles.

With similar ideals like AAP, the Swaraj Party may hurt the election prospects of not just AAP, but other parties as well. Akalis and the BJP are struggling with the anti-incumbency factor and Congress is trying to manage the assembly election campaign with poll strategist Prashant Kishor. AAP, on the other hand, is depending on the charisma of Arvind Kejriwal to work. In such a situation, the entry of a new party with possible support from Dharamvira Gandhi and Harender Singh Khalsa will cut into the vote banks of all the parties.

Talking about the objectives of the Swaraj Party, Manjit Singh said it would truly be based on the principles of Swaraj. According to Article II of the party constitution, passed in the convention, Swaraj underlined fighting all sorts of exclusion, discrimination and domination. The party will have transparency, democracy and accountability. The party will make every effort to bring marginalized sections to the central stage both in terms of organizational structure and in prioritizing issues for political action.

On the surface, Swaraj party looks like a replica of the AAP, with the same ideals and principles. But Manjit Singh assures that the Swaraj Party will be different from AAP and all other existing parties in the country. It will be committed to fight for a corruption-free society. It will work for free education, free health and medical services and a debt-free rural Punjab.

The party will stick to the Constitution that asserts autonomy in public affairs and grants due space to conflicting interests in Punjab. Speculation had been rife for some time that the Swaraj Lehar was working on an agenda for the formation of a political party to be able to contest elections in Punjab. Lehar has also prepared a party constitution.

The newly formed party will fight for the implementation of the riparian principles on the distribution of river waters of Punjab. The party is determined to make Punjab drugs-free and take care of the environment protection, said Singh.

He also showed a copy of the letter sent by suspended AAP MP from Patiala, Dharamvira Gandhi from Patiala congratulating Swaraj Lehar for the formation of the Swaraj Party. In the letter, he stated that the other national political parties had failed to live up to the people’s expectations, but the new political entity promises hope. Another suspended AAP MP, Harender Singh Khalsa has also welcomed the Lehar’s move, said Singh.

Speculation had been rife for some time that Swaraj Lehar was making moves for the formation of a political party. Lehar leaders had admitted earlier that there was pressure on them from party cadre to do so.

Earlier founding members of the Swaraj Abhiyan, including Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and some others had broken away from the AAP because they could not work under the alleged dictatorial attitude of the AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Later, two of the four AAP MPs elected in Punjab-Dharamvira Gandhi and Harvinder Singh Khalsa also started questioning the dictatorial attitude of the party leaders Kejriwal, Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Sanjay Singh.

The two AAP MPs were then suspended from the party for anti-party activities. Till date their suspension has not been revoked. After breaking away from AAP, Swaraj Abhiyan also known as Swaraj Lehar had only acted as a front taking up cudgels on behalf of the farmers and the weaker section of society, urban and rural poor.

The idea of launching a new political party by Swaraj Abhiyan had been floating for quite some time, but the urgency of it is being felt more now, what with assembly elections in Punjab drawing closer.

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Updated Date: May 30, 2016 12:07:09 IST

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