Sandeep Singh: AAP’s Perplexing Rajya Sabha Candidates Disappoint Punjabis
For many, AAP has betrayed the trust placed in them by Punjab
March 23, 2022 | 3 min. read | Opinion
AAP’s five Rajya Sabha candidates have raised eyebrows in Punjab, and rightfully so.
From non-Punjabi backroom political leaders to a cricketer, not a single one of the five selections have a history of raising core issues impacting Punjab. Whether it is water, language, agriculture, or Sikh human rights issues, the five nominees - Raghav Chadha, Sandeep Pathak, Harbhajan Singh, Sanjeev Arora, and Ashok Mittal - are odd choices for a party that promises to do things differently considering their silence on these local topics.
A far cry from Bhagwant Mann once calling for Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra’s, wife of Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra, nomination in the upper house of parliament.
For many, AAP has betrayed the trust placed in them by Punjab.
Raghav Chadha and Sandeep Pathak, for example, are two non-Punjabis that AAP has been projecting in what feels like an attempt to use Punjab in order to expand into other states, including Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal, and Gujarat.
Punjab has ongoing water disputes with Haryana, and at times quarrels with Rajasthan as well. If the water issue rises once again as a major conflict point, if it is not already, which side will Chadha or Pathak take? Silence may be the response, in the hopes of using Punjab as a launching pad for other states. AAP’s track record of silence during the Delhi riots shows that it can compromise on anything for political power.
Punjabis still demand Punjabi-speaking regions from Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal. Chadha and Pathak will never ever raise such issues in the Rajya Sabha.
In fact, Chadha did not hesitate in the past to blame Punjabi farmers and stubble burning for pollution in Delhi. Chadha has gone as far as to raise communal tensions in Punjab, like when he raised the false issue of discrimination against Hindus in the state during the election.
When there is no real allegiance to Punjab, other than political expediency, how effective do we believe their potential advocacy to be at the Rajya Sabha?
This issue is not about caste and religion either, as some have suggested. There are Punjabi Hindus like Dharamveer Gandhi and Doctor Pyare Lal Garg who regularly raise issues of Punjab. Both of them are respected by Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab alike.
It is, however, an issue of representation and roots.
Dalits and Jatts of Punjab constitute 53 percent of Punjab’s population, and they dominate the state’s politics. Out of the selected five, AAP has not nominated even a single Dalit or Jatt to raise issues in the Rajya Sabha.
Punjab launched and fed a globally significant framing protest. One would believe that Punjab’s Jatts would be put in a position to share their views on farming where important discussions take place on critical issues.
Punjab is the only Sikh majority state in India and they form only two percent of India’s population, but that is very obviously not reflected in the nominations. These candidates will never be able to effectively raise Sikh issues.
While some may claim that Harbhajan Singh, as the only Sikh candidate nominated by AAP, is enough. However, he has no history of taking strong stands on Sikh issues or causes.
Then there are also clear conflicts between AAP’s political positioning and their actual actions.
Lovely Professional University chancellor Ashok Mittal made his money by building a for-profit university. To expect a person who has benefited from the privatization of education to oppose Modi’s agenda of privatizing education would be naive.
Industrialist Sanjeev Arora, the other candidate, is not new to controversies either. He was barred from markets, by SEBI, for three years and fined 10 lakh rupees for suppressing negative information about his company. Arora’s actions saw the Buddha Nallah of Ludhiana polluted due in part to toxic chemicals released by industry into it. In 2020, Ludhiana Improvement trust had held an auction for nearly four acres of land. At that time opposition had claimed that it sold land worth 350 crores to Arora for less than 100 crore rupees. AAP had raised objections and the land auction was cancelled. Now, the same Aam Aadmi Party nominated him to Rajya Sabha.
AAP is using the mandate it received in order to improve Punjab and do politics differently to reward status quo leaders and corporations. With his choice of Rajya Sabha candidates, Arvind Kejriwal has made it clear that he has no problem prioritizing his own Delhi favourites over Punjab and its people.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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