Ludhiana, Feb 2: The Aam Aadmi Party seems to be on a surge in Punjab, if opinion polls are anything to go by. However, with just a couple of days to go for the Punjab Assembly elections, there is no clarity on who the party’s chief ministerial candidate is. While there were reports that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal possibly being the CM candidate, he himself cleared the air saying he was going to stay in Delhi.
However, that doesn’t seem to have settled the clamour around Kejriwal becoming the Punjab CM. Kejriwal has been campaigning throughout Punjab for the past six months. He’s the star face of the AAP in the state. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, too, has taken him on during his election rallies in the state saying an ‘outsider’ cannot be the CM of Punjab.
But, if not Kejriwal, is AAP MP Bhagwant Mann the chief ministerial candidate. Bhagwant Mann, AAP’s Dalit face, has indicated in the past as to how keen he is for the post. He has said that he would be happy if the party decides to make him the chief ministerial face.
In fact, Mann will be taking on Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal on the Jalalabad seat this Assembly election. Is this an indication that he is the party’s CM candidate? The party refrains from saying that even as it has made it clear that its Deputy CM will be a Dalit. Will Mann, in that case, be the Deputy CM and not the CM?
With Kejriwal and Mann possibly out of the CM race, who emerges as the best CM candidate for the AAP in Punjab? Many are placing their bets on HS Phoolka. Phoolka, a senior advocate, will fight the Punjab Assembly elections from the Dakha seat. He has been a crusader of sorts, fighting for justice for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Phoolka also fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections for the AAP from Ludhiana. Even though he was a first-timer in elections, he gave a tough fight to Congress’s Ravneet Bittu. Phoolka lost to Bittu by 19,709 votes.
Following the defeat, Phoolka had resigned from all posts in the AAP in September 2015, saying that he wanted to focus on the 1984 cases solely. However, he later joined the party again and was one of the first 19 candidates that the AAP had announced in its first list for the Assembly elections.
The AAP, in its manifesto for the polls, has in fact mentioned justice for anti-Sikh riots victims as one of its promises. While releasing its manifesto, Mann had praised Phoolka for his fight for justice for the 1984 victims. Many say Phoolka may be AAP’s hidden card for the CM’s post.
Punjab goes to polls on February 4 and the result will be announced on March 11. If the AAP wins, as is being predicted by opinion polls, it will be interesting to see who the party declares as the chief minister.