Drama in Delhi Assembly leaves AAP open to more ridicule from BJP, puts any talks with Congress on shaky ground
AAP's strategy to appeal to Sikh voters before 2019 Lok Sabha polls by holding a special Delhi Assembly session dedicated to condemning the 1984 riots fell flat on its face amid acrimony among party MLAs over a resolution to strip former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of the Bharat Ratna.
The strategy of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to appeal to Sikh voters before 2019 Lok Sabha polls by holding a two-day special session of the Delhi Assembly to condemn the 1984 anti-Sikh riots fell flat on its face after news of acrimony among party MLAs over a resolution to strip former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of the Bharat Ratna surfaced in the media.
The drama that unfolded in the Delhi Assembly on Friday over this resolution — proposed by AAP legislator Jarnail Singh — can be seen as a setback for the party on three counts.
First, amid the cacophony over the much-debated resolution, the message that AAP intended to convey through the special Assembly session over its ingenuity of commitment to the victims of the anti-Sikh riots was lost. This was an important message to convey for a party that is hoping to play crucial role in 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Punjab, where it won 20 seats in the last Assembly elections.
Second, if the resolution to strip the former prime minister of the Bharat Ratna was passed in the Delhi Assembly, it may have hamstrung any talk with the Congress over seat-sharing in Delhi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Third, this drama gives the BJP another handle against both AAP and the Congress to manoeuvre the narrative over the anti-Sikh riots in a way that suits it, as well as another opportunity to further criticise AAP.
Kapil Mishra, a former AAP MLA and minister who had turned rebel and is referred to as a BJP stooge, said: "The chaos over the resolution only proves that the party did not know what it was going to resolve in the Assembly. It only proves that it had no real commitment on the issue of the plight of Sikhs."
The faultlines in AAP's move appeared after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal supposedly asked party MLA Alka Lamba to resign as she had walked out of the Assembly, disagreeing with the proposal moved by Jarnail Singh.
Significantly, the Government of Delhi decided to hold the two-day long special session of the Assembly from Thursday after the Delhi High Court sentenced former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar to life in prison for his involvement in the anti-Sikh riots. The special session, which included condemnation of the riots on its agenda, was pitted against the BJP's claim for credit for the verdict.
Soon after the high court verdict, BJP president Amit Shah had tweeted: "I want to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for setting up an SIT in 2015, which initiated a re-investigation into several cases of 1984 that were pending for over three decades. I am grateful to the court that delivered its judgment, bringing relief to the traumatised families."
On the first day of the Assembly session, AAP legislator Saurabh Bhardwaj delivered an emotional speech on the riots, mentioning a few spine-chilling incidents that took place during the carnage, lifted from the Sajjan Kumar verdict itself.
He also took a dig at the BJP, saying: "During the anti-Sikh riots, Sikhs were called traitors, and during the Gujarat riots, Muslims were called traitors. The environment that was created in both the states was the same, but the parties that were ruling these states were different, and the victims belonged to different religions."
The first day of the session went by relatively peacefully. But on the second day, all hell broke loose after Jarnail Singh moved the resolution on Rajiv Gandhi, after which Lamba expressed her dissident in the Assembly itself.
In a tweet, just after the session ended, she said, "I was asked to support the resolution demanding taking back the Bharat Ratna awarded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since I didn't agree to this, I staged a walkout. I am ready to accept whatever punishment given to me."
She also said that Kejriwal had asked her to resign. "I won on a party ticket. I will tender my resignation as demanded by the party," she added.
AAP later went into damage control mode, denying that any such resignation was sought to be passed. But the special session of the Delhi Assembly, which began with a moving speech by Bhardwaj, ended in a chaos that diluted the message of commitment to victims of the anti-Sikh riots.
The plot became even more intriguing after the party distanced itself from the controversial resolution. While speaking to the media, Bhardwaj said the resolution was not part of the original copy, but was scribbled down by another AAP MLA, Somnath Bharti. AAP sources said that the party has sought an explanation from Bharti for his act.
Although Bharti was not available for comment, a tweet by an AAP MLA, which was later deleted, showed the resolution in printed form, not scribbled down as the party claimed.
The chaos over the resolution not only brings to the fore the lack of adequate discipline in the party, it is also likely to enhance the bitterness between AAP and the Congress, thus proving to be another obstacle in the seat-sharing talks believed to be underway between the two parties.
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