A day after a senior Punjab Congress leader claimed that at least 32 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators were in touch with him, chief minister Bhagwant Mann dared the opposition party to “topple” an elected government. The claims and counterclaims have again unravelled the differences in the INDIA bloc at the state level. Though both Congress and AAP are part of the opposition alliance at the national level, their Punjab units are at loggerheads. Local leaders from both parties have been openly advocating against any tie-up for the 2024 general elections.
Reacting sharply to the comment made by the senior Congress leader, who is also the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly, CM Mann wrote on social media site X: “Partap Bajwa (BJP), you are talking about breaking the elected government of the people of Punjab. I know Congress killed your desire to become Chief Minister…I am a representative of the three crore people of Punjab and not a trident of a chair…If you dare talk to the high command.”
The reaction came after Bajwa told the media on Monday that 32 AAP MLAs were in touch with him. He told reporters, “We also have 18 Congress MLAs. We need to push things a little and we are in the position to form the government. Within two months of the general elections, the AAP government would fall.”
The statements by both leaders come at a time when the INDIA front is trying to unite to form a formidable force against the ruling BJP-led NDA at the national level. While Punjab Congress leaders are vehemently opposed to the alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, AAP Punjab leaders, though initially claiming that the tie-up would work in the state, have also started resisting the move.
The AAP top brass in the state believes that the party managed to sweep the previous assembly polls on the anti-corruption plank, highlighting the “misrule” of the preceding Congress government, and an electoral tie-up with the same party will not augur well during its campaign for the Lok Sabha polls. Also, while AAP had initially said that it would contest on nine Lok Sabha seats in the state, including Chandigarh, it was willing to offer just four seats to the Congress. The Congress has been demanding that both parties contest on seven seats each.
Replying to Mann, Partap Bajwa wrote on X, “Even the kings could not retain their kingdom forever. You are the acting Chief Minister of Punjab. Though I don’t think it is necessary to answer you, since you are tweeting while eating and drinking, then listen to the answer. When your master Arvind Kejriwal loses control of Punjab, then you should talk to your high command. You are killing the development of Punjab with your jokes; neither have you taken care of the law and order, nor the economy, nor have you taken care of the youth of Punjab from drugs, nor have you cared for the migrant Punjabis sitting in Canada. How long will you continue to kill the dreams of the people of Punjab?”