LONDON: Paradoxically, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s stock is dipping in poll-bound Punjab amid scandals, its support base is up in the UK. Punjabi NRIs are rooting for change back home. They are opening their wallets and getting ready with offers to make calls home to Punjab and spread Arvind Kejriwal’s message.
Harpreet Singh, AAP convener in the UK, claims massive support among Punjabis for the party. “Our local unit, formed two months ago, has 1,800 registered volunteers,’’ he said. “Twelve teams have been formed in areas where the Punjabi diaspora is concentrated, including East and West London, Luton, Warrick, Lester, Birmingham. Another three teams will be ready by next week. From next month, the UK chapter will launch a phone-in campaign with volunteers calling people in Punjab, family members, relatives and friends and others.’’
Singh said during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 20,000 calls were made to Punjab from the UK by 150 callers seeking support for AAP. “Once the teams are in place, the AAP’s UK operations will adopt a target-based approach. People made donations of 20 to 1,000 pounds on August 15 and on Arvind Kejriwal’s birthday (August 16),’’ he added.
Raju Sansarpuri, councillor from Haynes in London, and general secretary of the British Indian Councillor Association, explains: “People here want a change in Punjab as they are tired of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress and see AAP as a triable alternative.’’ Solicitor Raghwinder Singh Sidhu said: “AAP has huge support here. The recent gatherings organised by AAP leaders such as H S Phoolka, Jarnail Singh and Delhi MLA Adarsh Shastri in the UK to garner support for the party were well-attended.”
Guru Singh Sabha Southall gurdwara president Gurmail Singh Malhi said representatives of political parties are coming to the UK to woo NRIs, who play a pivotal role in Punjab polls. A high-level delegation of SAD is in the UK to counter AAP. MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has credited the Akali government with removal of names of Sikhs from the ‘blacklist’ and providing relief to many Sikh families, even NRIs. Manjinder Singh Sirsa, general secretary, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said NRI’s should visit Punjab to get the real picture.