Whatever his intention was Manish Sisodia on Tuesday managed to create a huge storm in poll-bound Punjab when he indicated if not directly that Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal might relinquish the Delhi chief minister's post and be chief minister of Punjab if the party wins the Assembly poll in the border state.
Although Sisodia was quick to clarify later that his statement was misconstrued but it was enough to ignite sharp reactions from the party's political rivals while the guessing game went on whether it is a fact or a figment of fantasy.
If Kejriwal is indeed thinking of shifting his base to Punjab provided conditions are favourable, then it won't be an exaggeration to imply that the AAP boss is only biding his time in Delhi by warming up his chief ministerial seat till such time he gets an opportunity to move his base elsewhere. For obvious political reasons, Punjab could serve as a better stepping stone for Kejriwal to fulfill his national ambition.
Sisodia's big bang statement first made at a small public rally in Mohali and later while talking to a group of media persons that people of Punjab should vote believing that they are voting to make Arvind Kejriwal chief minister, could still be premature.
Left with a hazy clarity despite Sisodia's attempts to throw some light it won't be surprising if people eventually start wondering why the Delhi chief minister is in a hurry to dump Delhi.
Party MP from Punjab, Bhagwant Man, a stand-up comedian who nurtures chief ministerial ambition for himself was swift to react saying only a Punjabi could be the chief minister of the state while Kejriwal is a Bania from Haryana. The man's reaction is a clear pointer that there is a clear division in AAP over the issue of a chief ministerial candidate in the state.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal lapped up Sisodia's statement to launch a blistering attack on AAP and Kejriwal with a Punjabi versus outsider twist. In a series of tweets Badal said, "By asking people to vote for @ArvindKejriwal as CM of Pb, Manish Sisodia has exposed their plan. AAP has proven it does not trust Punjabis". The Akali leader added "Cat is out of the bag. Recent events prove that Kejri wanted to be CM all along & was only fooling people with misleading statements."
Then Badal went on to strike an emotive chord with the Sikh voters, saying that's why one after another Sikh leaders were either sidelined or thrown out of the party. "Sisodia's announcement proves that @SChotepur was thrown out to pave the way for @ArvindKejriwal." Another tweet said, "They also forced @BhagwantMann & Himmat Singh Shergill to fight from Jalalabad & Majitha to remove contenders who could challenge Kejriwal." Yet another tweet said, "I ask Punjabis to evaluate the actions of this anti-Punjab party & reject attempts to foist outsiders on the State @ArvindKejriwal". Badal retweeted India TV tweet "By asking people to vote for @ArvindKejriwal, @msisodia has exposed their plan; proves it doesn't trust #Punjabis: @officeofssbadal."
In his enthusiasm to cash on Kejriwal's credibility, whatever is left now, Sisodia may have committed a big mistake. This could boomerang on AAP. The party has already been fighting on Punjabi versus outsider perception about the party — first for the manner in which senior leaders from Delhi parachuted in Punjab to manage the organisation and devise a poll strategy, and second the manner in which its Sikh face in the state Sucha Singh Chhotepur was thrown out of the party.
Sisodia has given easy picking points to his political rivals in Punjab and Delhi. In Punjab, the public debate in this election could revolve around Punjabi versus outsider theme. In Delhi, Kejriwal runs the risk of yet again being called a "Bhagoda", for resigning in 49 days and running away to fight parliamentary elections from Varanasi, a tag which he had given him difficult times ultimately tending unqualified apology to people of Delhi.
As it is Delhi is currently facing a serious crisis of governance — pollution, potholed roads and most importantly garbage thrown all over the road by striking municipal sanitation workers. Neither he nor any of his ministers were in Delhi when the city was in the grip of chikungunya last year.
For the past few months, Kejriwal preferred to spend his time and energy outside Delhi to expand his party's support base in Punjab and Goa. Governance in Delhi has not been his priority. When Kejriwal had decided not to keep any portfolio with him, it was widely speculated that he had done so to keep himself free to travel out of Delhi and to try and expand his party's base. Sisodia stands to gain if Kejriwal moves to Punjab. The deputy chief minister will be elevated to post of chief minister, but all that is in the realm of ifs and buts for now.
In July 2016 while analysing why Kejriwal wouldn't give Navjot Singh Sidhu an entry in AAP, Firstpost had written Sidhu's chief ministerial ambition clashed with Kejriwal's chief ministerial ambition for Punjab.
Kejriwal wants to be the chief minister of Punjab for the simple reason that it is a big state, it is a border state and a full-fledged state where unlike Delhi he will have the control of police with powers to deal with matters under investigation, present and potential, the way he wants. AAP leadership believes that holding Punjab chief minister's post would give him required fillip to claim that he has an overpowering pan-India appeal and has the charisma to take on Narendra Modi in 2019. On many occasions in the past, Kejriwal claimed pole position against Modi.
Sisodia's exuberance at his first public outing in Punjab may just have made things difficult for Kejriwal and to his own dream of dropping 'deputy' prefix from the post he holds in the Delhi government.
Updated Date: Jan 10, 2017 19:35:38 IST