Chandigarh. Till now, the Aam Admi Party’s political campaign graph in Punjab was expected to give a tough competition to its opposition in the state assembly election early next year, but the ‘Youth manifesto’ debacle at Amristar’s Golden Temple and the sacrilege hullabaloo on Quran issue has put a sudden break on their march.
AAP is in deep trouble today. The planned move, to release young manifesto from different section of the public in Punjab in order to reap rich harvest there and to gain substantial lead over their rivals, has yielded an opposite reaction and AAP is paying the price for its over-exuberance much to the chagrin of the Akalis, BJP and the Congress who are not going to spare this chance to put AAP in dock.
The much publicized ‘Youth manifesto’ was released by AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the holy city of Amritsar, the seat of religious symbolism which was chosen very vigilantly to gain more political mileage.
But the consequent controversy over the issue of placing over 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 agitated such a furor that it refuses to die down, causing immense discomfort and damage to the party’s image and political campaign. The political and legal mess is a big setback as AAP now finds itself entangled in religious and political controversies.
Leave aside stealing a march over the political rivals; AAP has been forced on the backfoot now, which is much in the interest 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 trouble for the Quaran burning issue in the Muslim-dominated Malerkotla town on 24 June.
On Saturday, Yadav was probed 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.
AAP spokesman Sukhpal Singh Khaira said it was unfortunate that the party had got embroiled in unnecessary controversies. “We have apologized 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 color 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 claim, saying the pictures were a result of photoshops. “If I am factually wrong about the pictures, why don’t SAD and Congress file defamation cases against me?” challenged Khaira.
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.
Meanwhile AAP Convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Campaign Committee inchrage Kanwar Sandhu have took 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 apologize 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.