Hitting out at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), five-time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday called upon the people of the state not to elect those who would sell their loyalties to the highest bidder and defect to other parties for personal gains once the elections are over.
Badal, 94, said there are political opportunists in the fray who are eager for a chance to turn the state into an open political mandi.
Badal, the grand old man of Punjab politics and the patriarch of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), pointed at the experience of the previous elections after which 11 of the 20 MLAs of AAP had “sold” themselves to others, betraying the people’s mandate.
“Punjab needs responsible leadership to save it from instability and chaos. Punjab will turn into a lawless state if reckless, adventurist and selfish leaders get a chance to ruin the state,” said Badal.
The Akali leader, the country’s oldest politician after BJP veteran L.K. Advani (94), blasted AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal for seeking a “mauka” (chance) from Punjabis while openly demanding hefty fines on Punjab farmers for burning stubble and filing a case in Supreme Court to rob the state of its river waters.
“He (Kejriwal) has banned the teaching of the language of Guru Sahiban in Delhi and has lied in public while opposing the release of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar. If such a person gets a ‘mauka’, Punjab will lose everything it has because Bhagwant Mann has no guts to stop Kejriwal from robbing the state,” Badal said.
Earlier, addressing a rally in Lambi from where he is in the fray for the sixth time with five consecutive wins in his kitty, Badal said most candidates of the Congress and AAP have purchased tickets with money and if they get elected, they would be certain to barter their seats for money and other selfish gains.
The Akali stalwart, who spent 17 years in jail for his involvement in various Akali movements, a fact that prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call him Nelson Mandela, said that 62 candidates of AAP and many among the Congressmen had defected to their current party, and they neither had any commitment, nor integrity.
“If these candidates get elected, you will see Punjab turning into a haven for horse-trading,” he said.
The former Chief Minister, whose political journey spans over 75 years, said only the performance of a political party on past promises should determine the people’s choice.
He challenged both the Congress and AAP leaders to name just one thing on which the SAD governments did not fulfil the promises the party had made to the people in its manifestoes in the past.
Badal, who became the youngest Chief Minister of Punjab in 1970, said that he had chosen to contest the elections mainly to stop the outsiders from getting roots in Punjab and enslave its people.
“I am here to ensure political stability in the state, as peace and communal harmony are prerequisites for development and progress,” he said.
Badal believes the total neglect of governance, and stoppage of all welfare and development initiatives by the state government will be the reasons behind the rout of the Congress in the upcoming polls.
Political observers say the biggest poll issues this time are drug menace, unemployment, and the recent acts of sacrilege and the turn of events in their aftermath.
The Akali Dal is fighting the elections in alliance with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The SAD and the BSP will contest 97 and 20 seats, respectively, in the 117-member Punjab Assembly.
Snapping over two-decade long ties, the Akali Dal pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in September 2020 after sharp differences emerged over the three controversial farm laws.
The Congress, which was out of power in Punjab for a decade (2007-17), got 77 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections after drubbing the Akali Dal-BJP combine.
At that time, Badal had won the Assembly elections from Lambi by defeating Congress candidate Amarinder Singh by 22,770 votes.
Punjab will go to the polls on February 20, while the counting of votes will be taken up on March 10.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)