Bent on ousting Badals, Sikh radicals rally behind AAP

CHANDIGARH: Politics makes strange bedfellows. This seems true in Punjab, where the AAP is getting tacit support from an unlikely quarter: a

section of the radicals. “Rallies organised by AAP have been attracting huge crowds, including supporters and sympathisers of radicals. Radicals and AAP have a one-point agenda: ousting the Badals and keeping the Congress out of power. That is why they are with AAP,’’ said an intelligence official.

United Akali Dal president Mohkam Singh, who spearheaded the radicals’ call for a Sarbat Khalsa last year, has been trying to reach an understanding with the AAP. “We will contact each individual and organisation that can help in stopping the SAD-BJP alliance and Congress from coming to power. Last time we had an understanding with the AAP and supported all their candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, barring H S Phoolka from Ludhiana. This time too, we are looking to replicate this formula,’’ said Mokham.

The radical Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa is also not averse to supporting the AAP but had second thoughts after the controversy over the party’s youth manifesto cover, which bore an image of a broom superimposed on that of the Golden Temple. Arvind Kejriwal tendered an apology and performed penance at the Golden Temple.

Last year the AAP’s state convener, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, visited Sikh activist Surat Singh Khalsa, who was on a hunger strike demanding the release of Sikh prisoners. Chhotepur also tacitly supported the Sarbat Khalsa, saying the gathering was an outcome of people’s anger against the government.

Kejriwal also met Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale at Gurdwara Parmeshwar Dwar near Patiala a few months ago. “A few people earlier associated with Sikh Students Federation and Panch Pardhani or their kin have joined the AAP,’’ said an intelligence official. Recently, SAD chief and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had referred to the AAP’s “radical links” and urged the Centre to probe the party’s funding.

Countering such allegations, AAP state in-charge Sanjay Singh termed Badal’s statements illogical. “Sukhbir is levelling allegations without any logic or evidence. Sometimes he links the AAP with Khalistanis, then with ISIS or ISI… because he fears a humiliating defeat in the upcoming Assembly polls,’’ he said.