With an eye on the Assembly elections in Punjab due early next year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday staged a protest at the Mohali-Chandigarh border against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government, accusing it of being involved in the alleged multi-crore foodgrain scam.
AAP activists and workers from across the State first gathered at the Dussehra ground in Mohali before heading towards Chandigarh. However, the protesters were stopped by the police at the entry points to the city.
35,000 policemen deployed
Though the AAP members had planned to “gherao” Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s residence in Chandigarh, the Punjab police put up barricades and deployed nearly 35,000 policemen at various locations in and around the city to maintain law and order.
Though demonstrations went on for a few hours, it was only in the afternoon that a few AAP leaders, including the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh, State convenor Sucha Singh Chottepur and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, were allowed to meet the Chief Minister at his residence, where the select party members sat on a “dharna.”
The AAP leaders handed over a memorandum to Mr. Badal, demanding constitution of a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the alleged foodgrain stock shortage scam. They also sought the resignation of Agriculture Minister Tota Singh, accusing him of being responsible for the failure of cotton crops last year due to supply of “spurious seeds and substandard pesticide” in the State.
Meanwhile, Mr. Badal said the AAP’s “rally and gherao programme” was a “flop show.”
“Their AAP game is over. It is time for them to fold up their tents and leave because the people of Punjab, especially our farmers, have spoken out most clearly and categorically that they are not amused or entertained by the petty songs, jokes, cheap stunts and gimmicks of the AAP,” the Chief Minister said.
He said AAP leaders in Punjab were “remote-controlled” by non-Punjabis who were “hated” by the people in their own States because of their “corrupt acts.”
“The AAP leaders of Punjab were acting at the behest of their non-Punjabi masters and are defaming and ridiculing their own State. Today, the AAP leaders must have found out what the Punjabi youth and farmers think about this act of betrayal of Punjab by the AAP,” he said.
Mr. Sanjay Singh, however, accused Mr. Badal of using coercive methods to ensure that the AAP could not take out the protests and surround the Chief Minister’s official residence to expose his “misdeeds.”