An alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections will be like signing the “death warrant” for the Congress in the state. “And we do not want to demolish the Congress,” the Leader of the Opposition in Punjab and senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa told News18 in an interview.
This strong stand seems to extinguish any hopes for an alliance between the INDIA partners in Punjab. In fact, such is the bitterness between both sides that Bajwa went on to say the AAP government would soon be toppled by the Congress. “If we get 10-11 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab (there are 13 seats), we can topple the AAP government. Many AAP MLAs are in touch with us. Whenever we get a chance, we will topple them. If most MLAs of AAP want to come over and don’t want to stay with them, what can I do? Who can save a failed marriage?” Bajwa told News18.
The arrest of Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira in an old drugs case has pitted AAP and Congress against each other in Punjab. Bajwa said the case against Khaira was lodged under Akali Government due to vendetta as Khaira has always been on the wrong side of the establishment. “In 2017, why did Bhagwant Mann give an assembly ticket to Khaira when the case was going on, and he switched to AAP? A year later, Arvind Kejriwal made Khaira the leader of the opposition in Punjab. Mann has earlier said the case was of political vendetta. Also, Khaira has already got a sort of clean chit from the Supreme Court,” Bajwa told News18.
The Congress LoP claimed that AAP has no cadres in Punjab and hence wants to show the Congress as a corrupt party. “By arresting our former ministers, they want to demoralise our leadership and bring the Congress cadres to AAP. For God’s sake, we should not have an alliance with AAP. People have seen the real face of AAP in 18 months, people are disillusioned and coming back to Congress,” Bajwa said. He claimed the Congress would get 35-36% votes if it fights alone in 2024 in Punjab and can win 9-10 seats on its own.
“We are going hammer and tongs against each other, how can we sit on the same stage? We want a settlement like the one in Kerala—where both parties contest against each other,” Bajwa said. He said that the party had spoken to Congress cadres, its district presidents, and the MLAs—all of whom were not ready for any alliance with AAP. “…except a couple of our MPs sitting in Delhi who think their job will become a bit easier, no one wants an alliance with AAP,” Bajwa said.
Training his guns on AAP, Bajwa said the ruling party’s performance in the state could be held akin to the famous Urdu couplet, “Har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai, anjame gulistan kya hoga”, and argued that the sooner the AAP government goes, the better it will be for Punjab. “They have already taken a Rs 50,000 crore loan. The AAP government will prove to be the biggest plunderers and looters of Punjab,” the senior Congress leader said.