The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been rocked in Punjab by frequent upheavals in the past five years, but there was one leader who remained totally aloof.
Professor Sadhu Singh, party’s Member of Parliament from Faridkot Lok Sabha constituency, maintained an uncanny silence. He is exactly the same in his constituency as well — neither seen, nor heard much. The first-time MP, who is not articulate, has remained low-key throughout. His office in a rented accommodation on the outskirts of the city has never been crowded, making people often wonder about the electoral prospects of Sadhu Singh — whose astounding victory in 2014 was attributed to popular support for the AAP — in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
He is banking on the development works carried out with transparency from funds received under the MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme this time. “I am the only MP in Punjab who has achieved the target of allocating the entire sum of Rs 25 crore sanctioned in five years under the scheme,” said the AAP MP, calling it his “trump card”.
CLEAN IMAGE HIS STRENGTH
Sadhu Singh, who taught at Brijindra College and then served as principal of KK Marwaha College, has the image of a clean politician. A staunch Marxist, he was vocal against the Khalistan ideologues during the militancy period in the state, but his complete silence on issues raised by the disgruntled party leaders has been termed as “lack of spine” by his critics.
The Faridkot MP, who has remained loyal to the party’s central leadership, dismisses members of the breakaway group as people who would not achieve anything and will gradually fade out. “(Patiala MP Dharamvira) Gandhi is a good man, but those who leave the party do not go a long way,” his said about his friend who was suspended by the AAP three years ago for “anti-party activities”.
INFIGHTING REMAINS A CHALLENGE
The internal bickering, which has led to rebellion by seven of the 20 party legislators in the state, has played out in his parliamentary constituency as well. Jaitu MLA Baldev Singh was among the three AAP legislators in his Lok Sabha constituency, but he revolted against the party leadership and has resigned to join a new outfit, Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP), floated another rebel MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
The dissidents are also creating problems for the party in the Kotkapura assembly constituency. The PEP, which is directly targeting the AAP, has formed an alliance — Punjab Democratic Alliance — with Lok Insaaf Party, Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) and some other outfits. The alliance has decided to field its candidates and could affect Sadhu Singh, who is among the five candidates named by the party, in his re-election bid.
While former SAD MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, who lost to Sadhu Singh in 2014, has been preparing to throw her hat in the ring again, the Congress, which got pushed to the number three position, is looking for a strong candidate this time. Gulshan said Sadhu Singh will be rejected by the people this time because his performance was “nil”.
Congress leader Joginder Singh called Sadhu Singh’s five-year term a failure. “Distributing the central grants has been the criterion to judge any MP or MLA. People need a representative who raises their issues,” he said.
However, the AAP MP differed, saying the breakaway faction would not be able to make any dent in his support base in Jaitu, Kotkapura or other assembly segments of the constituency. “I am sure people will reward me for my work,” he said, banking on grants given from his development fund to the municipal bodies and health and educational institutions. He has also been instrumental in getting a drain cleaning machine worth Rs 30 lakh, the only such equipment in the entire state, for the Jaitu municipal committee.
Despite his image of clean and non-controversial politician, Sadhu Singh has been politically inactive and never showed initiative to mobilise masses for the party during the panchayat elections or the war within.
Mar 14, 2019 16:29 IST