AAP on Wednesday announced its candidate, MLA Jarnail Singh, against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Lambi constituency for the upcoming Assembly polls.
Addressing a gathering at Badal’s home turf Lambi, AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Singh’s candidature and asked the audience if he would be the right man to take the Akali leader head-on. He alleged that so far, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh and Badal, as per a “tactical understanding”, have been nominating “weak” candidates against each other, so that their opponents could secure easy wins. “However, this time, we will not allow Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh a walkover.
That is why we are fielding our strongest candidates against the three and (Bikram) Majithia to give them a taste of political dust,” Kejriwal added. Notably, AAP has fielded MP Bhagwant Mann from the Jalalabad seat held by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, while the party’s legal cell head, Himmat Singh Shergill, has been nominated from the Majitha seat represented by state Revenue Minister Majithia. Listing instances of the “tactical understanding” between the Badals and Amarinder, Kejriwal claimed that the Congress’ nominee against Sukhbir from Jalalabad could not even save his deposit, adding that in a similar move, Amarinder had fielded a weak candidate against Majithia, who could only bag 7,000 votes in the 2017 Assembly polls.
Both Amarinder and Badal not only “jointly contested polls to facilitate each other’s win”, but also “shared” business interests in sand and gravel, transport, liquor and above all, in “back-up candidates” who have been embroiled in the drug trade in Punjab, he alleged. Kejriwal cited the example of senior Akali leader Sarwan Singh Phillaur, who had to step down from the cabinet after his and his son’s names cropped up in the drug trade and was subsequently welcomed by Amarinder into the Congress-fold. Akali MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria, who was the right-hand man of Majithia, too was welcomed by the state Congress chief, he said, adding that this clearly showed that both Badal’s and Amarinder’s families had “joined hands to ruin Punjab turn-by-turn”.
Jarnail Singh challenged Badal to an open debate on the “superficial” development of Punjab the Akali Dal has been talking about. “Thousands of farmers have committed suicide, youngsters are dying due to drugs…transport, liquor and cable businesses have been captured by the Badal family…is this the model of development the Badals are boasting of,” he said, adding that he will let the chief minister choose the venue and time of the debate. Others who spoke on the occasion included AAP MPs Sadhu Singh, Bhagwant Mann and senior leader Sanjay Singh.