Confident AAP not keen to project CM candidate in Punjab

New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) The AAP is confident of sweeping the Punjab assembly polls but is in no hurry to decide who will be its Chief Minister, a party leader in charge of the state said.

Durgesh Pathak also said that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was ready for any decision by a parliamentary panel on its MP, Bhagwant Mann, who is accused of breaching Parliament’s security, a charge Mann has denied.

Pathak, who has played a key role in building the party in Punjab, said he expected the AAP to win 95 to 105 of the 117 seats in the elections due early next year.

“Of course any party will say it is winning,” Pathak, 27, told IANS in an interview. “But I invite you to visit any place in Punjab and ask any 10 people who they will vote for. I bet seven will say AAP.

“As of now, the Akalis and the Congress are far, far, far behind us,” he said, referring to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress, the main opposition party. The BJP is a junior ally of the Akalis.

Pathak, who said he had visited every nook and corner of Punjab in the last one year, debunked arguments that the Akalis still held sway in rural areas.

“Of the 117 seats in Punjab, only 20 to 25 are urban seats in the real sense. So, if this argument is true, the AAP can’t win. But the reality is different. We have support in both rural and urban areas.”

According to Pathak, the AAP won a quarter of the votes polled in Punjab in the 2014 Lok Sabha election which fetched it four seats – the only parliamentary victory it got anywhere in the country.

“A winning party in an assembly battle will need about 35 per cent of votes. As of now in Punjab, we have acquired a support base of 53-54 per cent. No wonder, C Voter survey is giving us 102 seats as of today.”

The AAP’s entry has made the coming Punjab election a triangular affair for the first time. Both the Akalis and the Congress admit their main foe is the AAP.

Pathak said there were many reasons why the AAP had grown so rapidly in Punjab.

He said a decade of Akali rule had badly hurt Punjab’s economy, made corruption a way of life, led to nepotism as well as given birth to both ‘goondagardi’ and a drug culture that had mauled the young.

“The voter is angry. People are hungry for good governance. And in such a scenario, our achievements in Delhi are seen positively. So the voter is looking to bring the AAP to power, not the Congress.

“And we are seen as political activists who are honest and fearless,” he added.

Amid speculation that former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu could be the AAP’s Chief Ministerial candidate in Punjab, Pathak said the AAP was in no hurry to project a potential CM.

“We have not even thought about it. We have not even decided whether there needs to be a CM candidate ahead of the election. We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”

Does the AAP fear that Bhagwant Mann’s membership of the Lok Sabha will be cancelled by the parliamentary panel probing his video recording of a section of parliament?

Pathak, who is from Allahabad and who joined the India Against Corruption campaign of 2011 before embracing the AAP, said the Akalis, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party had ganged up against Mann.

“Mann has done no wrong. He only wanted to show how questions submitted for Zero Hour in Parliament are selected like in a lottery.

“But if this panel wants to throw him out of the Lok Sabha, so be it. None of us joined the AAP for any post. We are prepared for anything. All I can say is people are watching everything and they are the final judge.”

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