With the Punjab Assembly polls just over a month away, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday announced a phone number on which people can call and name their choice of chief ministerial candidate. Kejriwal also suggested he was open to a third party mediating a pre-poll alliance between the AAP and farmers outfits.
Meanwhile, the BJP leaders continued to raise the issue of PM Narendra Modi’s security breach, with Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath alleging that it was a “pre-planned conspiracy”. The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a five-member committee to probe the security breach.
Here are the top developments of the day from poll-bound Punjab:
EC changing rules to register new party at BJP’s behest, claims AAP
The AAP on Thursday claimed that the Election Commission is going to register a new political party by bringing changes in its rules at the behest of the BJP.
Addressing a press conference here, party spokesperson Raghav Chadha alleged that the move has been set in motion by the BJP to stop the AAP from winning assembly elections in Punjab and forming its government in the state.
There was no immediate reaction either from the EC or the BJP on the AAP’s accusation. Chadha, however, did not share the name of the party which he claimed is going to be registered by the commission, saying it will soon be known to everybody.
“We have received very solid information that the Election Commission of India is going to register a (new) political party giving it a special treatment,” Chadha told reporters.
Liquor, psychotropic substances, unaccounted cash worth Rs 23.8 cr seized in Punjab
Enforcement teams have seized liquor, psychotropic substances and unaccounted cash after model code of conduct came into force in Punjab following the announcement of the Assembly elections, a poll official said on Thursday.
The estimated value of the confiscated items is worth Rs 23.8 crore, he said.
The seizure was made till January 12, he added.
The Election Commission had on January 8 announced the poll schedule for the elections in Punjab and four other states. Punjab goes to the polls in single phase of voting on February 14.
Kejriwal asks people who should be AAP’s CM face
Kejriwal asked people on Thursday who should be the party’s chief ministerial face in the February 14 Punjab Assembly polls, even as he stated that his own preference for the post is Bhagwant Mann.
Kejriwal, however, ruled himself out of the race as the AAP launched its “Janta Chunegi Apna CM” drive and said the name of the candidate for the top post will be announced after getting the feedback of people.
In the presence of Mann, who is the AAP’s Punjab unit chief and the MP from Sangrur, and senior party leader Raghav Chadha, the Delhi chief minister launched a mobile number — 7074870748 — on which people can give their opinion till 5 pm on January 17 by recording their voice and sending text or WhatsApp messages as to who should be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
“No, Arvind Kejriwal is not in this. Let me clarify, I am not in it,” Kejriwal said, ruling himself out as the party’s chief ministerial face in Punjab.
On Wedneday, Kejriwal had launched the party’s ten-point ‘Punjab Model’ for the forthcoming Assembly elections.
He promised justice in sacrilege cases, jobs to youth, corruption-free governance, and asserted that people want to bring his party to power to break the “partnership” between the Badals and the Congress.
BJP leader Rana Sodhi seeks opening of Hussainiwala border
Former aide of Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh and a four-time MLA Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, who had joined BJP recently, has demanded opening of Hussainiwala border insisting “it is necessary to open this bridge as a trade route to Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
A sitting MLA from Guru Har Sahai, Sodhi was dropped from the Cabinet after Amarinder’s ouster. BJP is likely to field him from Ferozepur constituency this time.
In a statement, Sodhi said: “For the new Punjab that the Prime Minister has dreamt of, Hussainiwala border needs to be opened. Hussainiwala border is the place of martyrs on which every countryman pays his respects. The border can bring prosperity to the area, if it is opened for trade.”
Congress to release first list soon, screening committee to submit names to CEC, Sonia Gandhi today
With screening committee of Punjab Congress zeroing on a single name of most suitable candidate from around 60 Assembly constituencies and sending a list to AICC interim president Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has scheduled the Central Election Committee (CEC) for Punjab today.
Sources said, if all goes well, the CEC may release the first list of Congress today. “As the meeting may go on till late in the evening, the first list may be released after that. If not Thursday, then it may be out of Friday,” a leader privy of developments said.
“However, we have not got the virtual link for the meeting yet. Let us see,” said a leader.
A meeting of screening committee was held virtually on Wednesday which was attended by screening committee chief Ajay Maken, Chief Minister Charanjit Channi, PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu, former PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar and others.
AAP trying to insult Punjabis by trying to get outsiders to rule Punjab: SAD
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said that “the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was insulting Punjabis by asserting that they were not fit to govern themselves and wanted to foster outsiders on them, which would never be tolerated”.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on Wednesday after the the party’s core committee meeting, the senior Akali leadership stated that “AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal was releasing anthems and even paid news to insult Punjabis, as well as project himself as the saviour of Punjab.
Even party ticket of AAP was being sold, with a breakaway faction of the party giving proof of sale of 35 such nominations so far.” The leaders said, “Punjabis are a proud community they will never tolerate the imposition of outsiders, like Raghav Chadha, in the same manner in which they rejected the duo of Durgesh Pathak and Sanjay Singh in 2017.”
Kejriwal during a press conference in Chandigarh on Wednesday, however, denied charges of tickets being sold and he termed the AAP “most upright party” since the country got its independence in 1947. He also promised action if it was proven that party tickets had been sold.
(With inputs from PTI)