Chandigarh: Looking to revive itself in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been training its guns on the Capt. Amarinder Singh-led Congress government and what it seeks to portray as his dismal performance on the Covid-19 front.
On Tuesday, AAP Punjab chief and MP Bhagwant Mann took a potshot at the chief minister after the latter went into home quarantine following contact with a Covid-positive MLA during last week’s assembly session.
Amarinder, Mann said, has been in virtual “home quarantine” ever since he came to power in 2017.
“Amarinder is known for his inaccessibility and the past three years have been no different. Please find out how many days he has lived in his official residence or come to office in the secretariat. His officers and staff have to go to his farmhouse to attend meetings. He was in home quarantine even before Covid,” he added.
Talking to ThePrint, Mann said the Congress government under Amarinder has failed abysmally on the administrative front and “this is clear from the response of the government to the Covid pandemic”.
“There are horror stories emanating from government hospitals where none of the ministers or MLAs have offered to get admitted after they were detected with Covid,” said Mann. “The number of deaths in Punjab is much higher than even the largest states which have been worst affected.”
Mann’s onslaught came days after AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, through a video message, launched a special drive in Punjab through party volunteers to check people’s oxygen levels and said they would distribute the distribution of oximeters in “every village, street and neighbourhood” to assess the Covid situation in the state.
As of Tuesday, Punjab had recorded 65,583 Covid-19 cases, of which 47,020 have recovered and 1,923 have died.
Amarinder, meanwhile, has warned Kejriwal against trying to “undermine” the state government’s Covid efforts. He said AAP workers were trying to “incite my people into not going to hospitals to get themselves tested and treated for Covid-19”.
He asked the Delhi chief minister to “stay out of Punjab and focus on managing Covid in his own state”.
“Oximeters have no connection with testing, and delay in the latter is the main reason for the state’s growing fatality rate. Given the pathetic Covid situation in Delhi, where AAP is in power, their pretension of being concerned about the people of Punjab is ridiculous,” he said in a press statement issued Saturday.
Mann was dismissive of Amarinder’s criticism. “What harm will distributing oximeters bring?” said Mann. “It is not that we are conducting tests which need technical expertise. It is like giving out thermometers to self-check.”
‘Preparing for 2022’
Punjab is the only other area besides Delhi where the AAP has managed to register a strong presence. The AAP sent four Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab in 2014, becoming the only state where the party’s parliamentarian candidates tasted victory.
However, its popularity has suffered in Punjab, where it now has just one Lok Sabha MP — Mann. In the 2017 assembly elections, the AAP was the hot favourite in the run-up to the polls, but won 20 of the 117 seats — this made the AAP the second biggest party in the house but a distant second to the Congress.
In the days since, it has faced a major challenge in an internal rebellion that saw former leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira and at least six other MLAs revolt against the control of the Delhi leadership and part ways.
Mann said AAP is gearing up for the 2022 elections. “Right now, the party’s structure in Punjab is suspended. In two weeks, we will have a brand new structure ready. We have sought names from volunteers and very soon district and state heads will be announced,” he said.
“However, there is no space in the new structure for party detractors. The door back into the party is now closed,” he added.
Mann said the party will follow the Delhi election model in Punjab this time. “We intend to have at least three-four independent surveys before deciding on the tickets. A preliminary survey is already complete,” he added.
“The results have been conveyed to the AAP MLAs and other ticket hopefuls. They will have to start going to their constituencies and start working if they want to improve their results in the next survey. No one who has performed badly will be given a ticket. The only criterion is winnability.”
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