Kejriwal may skip Canada visit to ‘avoid controversy’

Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Toronto: Members and volunteers of the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP in Canada expected

to see Arvind Kejriwal in the country before the Punjab Assembly elections early next year. What they did not expect was that would come in the form of their leader appearing in a documentary premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF.
The Delhi chief minister was scheduled to be in Canada this summer, but that visit was cancelled. The official reason is that he had other commitments, but as one AAP member explained, the real cause was, “Because Captain happened.”
That refers to Punjab Congress chief and former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s planned trip this April, which had to be aborted after the hardline group, Sikhs for Justice, approached Global Affairs Canada to bar him from canvassing activity in the country and also filed a case pertaining to torture in a Toronto court. Singh was forced to call off the Canada leg of his North American tour.
And AAP appears to have learnt its lesson from that episode. While the party’s convener in Punjab, Gurpreet Ghuggi, recently completed a visit to the United States, he bypassed Canada. As an AAP Canada leader said, “Nobody wants to come into controversy.” In effect, Kejriwal may be trying to avoid the embarrassment suffered by Singh.
In an emailed response, Global Affairs Canada had stated: “Foreign electoral campaigns in Canada run counter to well-established Canadian policy…We expect foreign states to ensure that any activity planned in Canada involving their governments or elected officials is in full accordance with this Canadian policy.”
The volunteers may be disappointed, but they found some consolation in watching the world premiere screenings of the documentary, An Insignificant Man, at TIFF. Over two dozen AAP activists attended the Toronto screenings.
AAP volunteer Sudeep Singla said, “It’s a very good movie. Being an AAP supporter, it was good revision for me about what all happened (prior to the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections). I feel now there’s no need to worry. We are more optimistic and confident.”
AAP’s national secretary Sumesh Handa said, “Documentary on Arvind Kejriwal at TIFF is an honour to common man.” Meanwhile, AAP’s convenor in Canada Jaskirat Mann is in Punjab and she said, “They’re creating more fuss all over, but everything is really good at ground level.”
She claimed that AAP has nearly 10,000 members signed up in Canada, with five times that number of supporters. The party, she said, raised nearly Rs 50 lakh from donors in Canada in August. Volunteers have also been going to nagar kirtans, district picnics and kabaddi tournaments, to shore up support for AAP in Canada.
The documentary could be part of the outreach campaign. “We want to show the film in Brampton (a Toronto suburb). We’re talking to some distributors and also discussed this with the producer (Anand Gandhi),” Singla said.
At the very least, Kejriwal could well be travelling around Canada in the near future; not in person, but as a projected image in a cinema.