Punjab: Youth manifesto, sacrilege controversy put brakes on soaring AAP graph

Till recently, the AAP’s political campaign graph had been going up steadily in Punjab ahead of the state assembly elections.

Rajendra Khatry July 10, 2016 15:37:19 IST
Punjab: Youth manifesto, sacrilege controversy put brakes on soaring AAP graph

Chandigarh: Till recently, the Aam Admi Party’s political campaign graph had been going up steadily in Punjab ahead of the state assembly elections early next year, but the 'Youth manifesto' fiasco at Golden Temple Amritsar and the sacrilege controversy on the Quran issue has put a sudden break on their march.

AAP today is in deep trouble. The party had planned to reap rich harvest from the release of youth manifesto from different sections of the public in Punjab to be able to gain substantial lead over other rival parties but the opposite has happened and AAP is paying the price for its over-enthusiasm much to the chagrin of the Akalis, BJP and the Congress who are leaving no chance to put AAP in the dock.

Punjab Youth manifesto sacrilege controversy put brakes on soaring AAP graph

Representational image. PTI

The much publicised 'Youth manifesto' had been released by AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the holy city of Amritsar, the seat of religious symbolism which had been chosen very carefully to gain more political mileage.

But the subsequent controversy over the issue of superimposing the AAP symbol-broom on the front page of the manifesto alongside the picture of Sri Harmandar Sahib, and the statement of AAP leader Ashish Khetan equating the manifesto to the Guru Granth Sahib created such a furore that it refuses to die down, causing immense discomfort and damage to the party. As a result, AAP now finds itself embroiled in religious and political controversies. The political and legal mess is a big setback and is causing immense damage to the political campaign of AAP.

Leave aside stealing a march over the political rivals, AAP has been forced on the backfoot now, which is much to the liking of the rival parties. The party is also facing trouble on the other front because one of its members, Delhi legislator Naresh Yadav, is in deep trouble in the Quaran burning issue in the Muslim-dominated Malerkotla town on 24 June.

On Saturday, Yadav was grilled by the police for 9 hours at the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) office at Sabgrur. Later, Yadav was quoted as saying, "I had my worst day, but no matter how hard police or the SAD try to scare me, I will not step back." Punjab Police has booked Yadav after the key accused named him as an inciter for sacrilege. Kejriwal tried desperately to defend Yadav. Sangrur SSP Prithpal Singh, who led the interrogation team, said despite grilling, a few issues still remained as some of the answers were not satisfactory.

Talking to Firstpost, AAP spoksman Sukhpal Singh Khaira said it was unfortunate that the party had got embroiled in unnecessary controversies. "We have apologised to the people of Punjab and the matter should end there but the SAD and the Congress are trying to give a deliberate political and religious colour to gain mileage. But the people of Punjab are wise and understand the game plan of those parties."

In a press conference in Chandigarh on Saturday, Khaira alleged that SAD and Congress leaders had hurt religious feelings of the Sikhs by using pictures of Golden Temple with symbols of their parties on propaganda material. As proof, Khaira displayed two pictures related to SAD and Congress. However, both the parties refuted Khaira’s cliam, saying the pictures were a result of photoshops. "If I am factually wrong about the pictures, why doesn’t SAD and Congress file defamation cases against me?" challenged Khaira.

Kejriwal has also accused the Badal government of a political frame up. But there was double trouble over the printing of a Golden temple image alongside the party symbol broom and the equating of the manifesto to the Guru Granth Sahib which is considered a living Guru by the Sikhs. No wonder the Akalis, BJP and the Congress have pounced upon the issue. The issue has become a political tool to beat the AAP whose graph had been soaring high.

Meanwhile, frontal Sikh bodies, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Sant Samaj and Damdami Taksal, have also joined the chorus against AAP creating more trouble for the beleaguered party.

Khetan apologised for hurting Sikh sentiments, but the Akalis and the Congress refused to budge in order to cash in on the controversy to be able to put more pressure on Kejriwal and his party. AAP has handed over a very sensitive political issue to its rivals on a platter to beat it. For a long time, the Akalis had been claiming that the AAP was a bunch of outsiders who do not understand the religious and cultural ethos of the state. AAP’s mistakes have lent credence to that charge.

"Are AAP Convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur and me not Sikhs and residents of Punjab? Most of the AAP leaders are from the state. SAD and Congress are indulging in false propaganda to mislead the people," shot back Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

Meanwhile AAP Convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Campaign Committee inchrage Kanwar Sandhu have owned responsibility for the 'mistakes' of AAP during the release of the youth manifesto. In a statement given to the press on Saturday, Chhotepur said, "Being the head of the AAP family in Punjab, I take responsibility for the mistake on the part of any member of the party. From the core of my heart, I tender an unconditional apology. I beg pardon from all Sikhs. Christians and Muslims and Hindus for comparing our youth manifesto to holy scriptures."

AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and party’s campaign committee in charge Kanwar Sandhu have also regretted the controversy. AAP leader Harvinder Singh Phoolka also announced his intention to apologise before the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs. Kejriwal will be visiting Golden Temple on 18 July to seek forgiveness. But the SAD and the Congress are in no mood to forgive and forget till they manage to force AAP to pay a heavy price.

"Not Kejriwal but Kanwar Sandhu who drafted the AAP manifesto and allowed the broom symbol on the cover page should apologise to the Darbar Sahib for the manifesto gaffe of AAP. Kejriwal’s seeking forgiveness is just a 'drama', said Captain Amarinder Singh.

Harnam Singh Dhumma, Chief of Damdami Taksal has cautioned Arvind Kejriwal to desist from playing with religious sentiments of the people of Punjab for political gains. "The Sikhs will not tolerate any such anti-Panthic acts of AAP," he warned. "SAD and Congress are so desperate because they are afraid of AAP coming to power in Punjab," said a member of the Manifesto Committee of the AAP.

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