CHANDIGARH/DELHI: Delhi’s deputy chief minister, #ManishSisodia, just stopped short of declaring #ArvindKejriwal the chief ministerial candidate of Punjab during an election rally in Mohali on Tuesday , giving rise to speculation whether the Delhi CM was indeed intending to make the switch.
In response to questions about who would be Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) CM candidate in Punjab, Sisodia said: “You should vote presuming that Arvind Kejriwal will become the chief minister of Punjab (Aap ye maan ke chalo ki Punjab ka mukhya mantri toh Arvind Kejriwal banne wala hai).”
However, in the next bre ath, Sisodia added: “Irrespective of who is CM, it will be Kejriwal’s responsibility to ensure that all the promises that he has made to you are fulfilled. Cast your vote presuming that you are voting to make Kejriwal CM. Your vote will be in the name of Kejriwal.” He later added that the MLAs would decide who would be the chief minister.
Interestingly , while AAP has declared a chief ministerial candidate for Goa and has contested two elections in Delhi with Kejriwal as its CM face, it has not nominated any person for Punjab.
Sources said it was a well thought out strategy . An early indication that Kejriwal could be leaving the field clear for himself was when he appointed Sisodia deputy CM of Delhi and did not keep a single portfolio for himself.
It was clearly stated by the party then that this was being done to leave Kejriwal free for political work, especially as AAP had plans of expanding to other states. While BJP and Congress immediately pounced on this statement, accusing Kejriwal of being willing to once again desert Delhi for his political ambition, AAP clarified there were no plans for Kejriwal moving to Punjab or deserting Delhi.
“One can read into the statement as much as one may like but what is the problem if votes are being asked for in Kejriwal’s name! He is the party’s star campaigner in Punjab and also the party convenor,” said a senior AAP member.
However, it was not too long back that Kejriwal probably did consider this possibility . Sources within the party say that till almost the end of 2016, one was not too sure whether the party convenor wanted to shift to Punjab, where, unlike Delhi, he would have full control over the state. “It would also be only fair to say that Kejriwal himself never said so but this was the general feeling in the party. However, after being tagged a `deserter’ after he quit as CM in 2014, the shift would have to be very well thought out. As things stand now, he has no intention of leaving Delhi,” said a senior party member.
Another member added that if AAP was serious about becoming a national party , it would be foolish for one to presume that Kejriwal would jump from state to state. “It would be political suicide. The par ty is bracing to contest its first municipal elections in Delhi as well, and unless AAP wants to seriously damage its chances of winning, Kejriwal cannot afford to quit Delhi. Last time when he quit as CM, it took months for him to shake off the “bhagoda” tag,” he said.
In fact, Kejriwal had earlier ruled out contesting elections from Punjab. He had also clarified that he was not in the fray when Amarinder challenged him to contest against him. On December 28, Kejriwal had tweeted, “I’m not fighting Punjab election. So, your challenge is hollow. We are fighting BadalsMajithia, who sunk Punjab in drugs. And you are fighting us, not them?” Sisodia has made the statement at a time when AAP has seen its fortunes dip a little, especially after Sucha Singh Chhotepur was removed as Punjab convener in September last year, leading to protests within the party .
Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh was quick to tweet: “After months of beating around the bush, truth of Arvind Kejriwal and his nefarious ambition comes out! What a sneaky little fellow!” TOI had asked Kejriwal if he could be the Punjab CM candidate in an interview in October last year and he had replied: “The party has not decided on the CM candidate.Neither has any discussion taken place on my contesting. It will be decided by our political affairs committee.”