NEW DELHI, Jan 17: After a positive start, the talks over seat-sharing between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress in Punjab seemed to be heading nowhere with the Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann hinting that the AAP was determined to contest all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in his state and the Congress promptly branding Mr Mann and the AAP chief and his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal as “Hitler.”
The photo of the German dictator, Congress’s Pratap Singh Bajwa the leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, said, matches that of the AAP leaders. “The first thing I would like to advise them is to pull down the pictures of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh from their offices and replace it with Adolf Hitler. And if you carefully see the picture of Hitler, it matches with one of their (AAP) leaders,” Mr Bajwa said.
Hours before, the two parties had sent out a message of unity as Raghav Chadha and Pawan Bansal met in Chandigarh. A photo of the meet, posted on social media, showed the two chatting together in a lawn, the location of which was not divulged. “Congress and APP in Chandigarh have become the first constituents of Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) parties to implement the decisions and sentiments of INDIA to not let BJP win elections by default,” Mr Bansal had posted on X.
“Together we will win all the three positions, thus heralding the end of BJP’s anti- democracy rule in the country,” his post read. It was seconded by Mr Chadha in a Hindi post. The two parties, known for being more out of step than together, are contesting the civic polls of Chandigarh, where AAP will contest the post of the Mayor. The Congress will focus on the post of the senior deputy mayor and the deputy mayor.
Both parties have hailed it as a strike against the BJP and said they were the first in the INDIA Bloc to contest together. In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal also had a meeting with Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. But the bonhomie came up short in Punjab as Mr Bajwa said AAP’s “dictatorial governance” matches that of Adolf Hitler.
The outburst is seen as an expression of the party’s frustration as central leadership of both parties came to an understanding barely two days ahead of the Mayoral elections. With Congress candidate for Mayor post, Jasbir Singh Bunty, having to withdraw his nomination, feelings against AAP ran high.
Congress sources indicated that many in the party had expressed concern that an alliance with AAP will weaken their party. Earlier today, a huge fight broke out between the BJP and Congress-AAP workers at the municipal corporation office in Chandigarh as Mr Bunty went to withdraw his nomination.
Mr Bajwa’s remarks came soon after Mr Mann on Wednesday asserted that his party would win all the 13 parliamentary seats in the State. “Punjab will emerge as a lighthouse by giving all the 13 seats of the Lok Sabha to them [the AAP] in the coming general polls,” Mr Mann said, speaking to journalists. He added that the State government had done marvellous work for the welfare of the people, so the masses would once again stand with them.
“History will be created in the State by 13-0, where 13 seats will be a verdict in favour of the pro-people policies of the State government and the Opposition will be badly renounced by people for their anti-Punjab stance,” Mr Mann said.
Mr Mann’s remark, indicating that his party would contest all 13 parliamentary seats alone, has come at a time when the AAP and the Congress have joined hands to contest the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation mayoral elections, slated for January 18.
Mr Mann also hit out at Congress leader and former Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, describing him as a “fugitive who ran away from discharging duty when he was offered the charge of Power Minister.” He said that now, when the State government had started a “reverse trend” by purchasing a private thermal power plant, Mr Sidhu was making baseless and misleading statements against the AAP government.
Against the backdrop of the power plant’s purchase, Mr Sidhu had said: “Punjab needs sustainable financial decisions, not impulsive acquisitions that deepen its debt woes. The Goindwal Power Plant, far from being an asset, seems like a white elephant and a liability for the State’s already strained finances.”
Several senior leaders of the Congress, which is the principal Opposition party in Punjab, including Mr Bajwa have been for long critical of the alliance with the AAP, and they have been consistently asking the party’s ‘high command’ to not go ahead with the alliance with the AAP in Punjab.