With the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) training their guns at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for alleged “Khalistani connections”, the emotive issue of Sikh separatism has once again come to the front-burner in Punjab politics, with barely six months to go for the state assembly polls.
A day after state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh’s scathing attack on the AAP, deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Wednesday that he had “no doubt” that AAP was the “political front of Sikh hardliners”. Reacting, AAP’s state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur said Khalistan was not an issue “any more”, and that the two parties were “stooping to imagining things” to hit out at the AAP. At the same time, AAP manifesto in-charge Kanwar Sandhu said there was “no harm” in discussing Khalistan “just like any other issue is discussed”.
Talking to HT, Sukhbir alleged that Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had held a series of meetings with Sikh fundamentalists and promised them control of Sikh gurdwaras in return for their support. “AAP leaders are playing with fire. They have no clue, what it means to dabble into Sikh politics.”
He alleged that AAP’s “ideology of disruption” was in line with the ideology of “troublemakers”. “AAP has completely aligned itself with the Sikh separatists’ ideology just because they want to appease every section of people in order to come to power. AAP’s hobnobbing with former Sikh extremists can only mean bad news for Punjab, threatening the state’s hard earned peace,” he added.
The AAP leadership too, despite its tendency to hold press conferences and issues statements on most issues, has maintained a strategic silence on various Sikh issues, including Khalistan. This has given the Congress and SAD arsenal. However, Sukhbir asserted, “The SAD has never demanded that AAP clearly state its stand on Khalistan. Such questions are asked when there are doubts; in this case we have no doubt that the AAP is the political front of Sikh hardliners.” .
“AAP leaders are so desperate to win the coming elections that they are ready to say yes to anything not realizing that Punjab’s hard earned peace is at stake.
AAP leaders, when contacted by HT, rubbished the allegation. “Khalistan is not an issue in Punjab anymore. SAD and Congress are trying to whip up touchy instances of the past because they have nothing to attack us with. The real issues of the state are drug addiction, farm crisis and unemployment. Why don’t they talk about those?” said Chhotepur.
AAP’s manifesto in-charge Kanwar Sandhu said, “Where is the need for us to explain our stand on Khalistan? AAP is into electoral politics and that, by definition, means we believe in the integrity of India. We are against anyone who acts in a manner that will lead to disintegration of the country. However, there is no harm in discussing Khalistan just like any other issue is discussed. Also, our party has stood for protection of human rights, and will continue to speak against any violations.”