Former IPS officer, diplomat, activist, philanthropist – AAP stalks his face Punjab CM
Chandigarh: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to be at an impasse over projecting its chief ministerial face in Punjab. His most visible face in the state is Bhagwant Mann, but AAP Chairman and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has learned he has reservations against his candidacy. And those whom the AAP high command has grown to love do not seem interested in joining politics.
Bhagwant Mann, unit leader and AAP MP in Punjab, met Kejriwal in Delhi earlier this week to claim his candidacy as the party’s CM candidate in next year’s parliamentary elections. But several party sources told ThePrint that Kejriwal was not engaged in his interaction with Mann. The AAP coordinator is looking for a “more appropriate” alternative, keeping only the promise of making Mann the deputy CM.
According to the leaders of the AAP, several names were in the area of consideration of the high command of the party. The choice fell on farmer union leaders, environmental activists, former civil servants, police officers and philanthropists.
“Although many names were discussed, only a few were taken seriously. Last on the list is former state DGP NPS Aulakh, ”a senior state official said.
Earlier in June, Kejriwal announced that the party’s top cabinet candidate would be from the Sikh community and reside in the state.
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A cop, a diplomat & a philanthropist
A respected police officer, Aulakh was an IPS officer in 1972 and became director general of the Punjab police in 2007. In February 2009, he took over the head of the National Security Guard (NSG), the first officer from the Punjab to do so. Prior to joining the DGP, Aulakh was a member of the central government as the Special Director General of the Border Security Force. Now retired, he lives in Chandigarh.
The former cop, however, expressed his lack of interest in politics on Thursday. “I haven’t been contacted by the AAP at all, and I’m not interested in politics. It’s just not my cup of tea. Let’s put it this way – politics needs a particular skill set that I don’t have, ”he told The Print.
Party sources said another name that had been seriously considered was KC Singh, a retired diplomat who had served as India’s ambassador to Iran and the United Arab Emirates. He was a lotmate of Aulakh at IPS, but joined IFS in 1974. KC Singh is also from Chandigarh and studied at the University of Punjab. In addition to holding important posts in the Foreign Ministry, Singh had also served as Deputy Secretary to President Giani Zail Singh.
Last month, Singh launched “Sanjha Sunehra Manch”, a non-political forum aimed at soliciting advice and comments from urban and rural Punjabis on various issues in order to continue the dialogue. He too has expressed his disinterest in joining the AAP.
“I don’t think much of AAP and its leaders. And there’s no way I’m joining them politically, ”Singh told ThePrint.
A third candidate who would be on the AAP list is Dubai-based businessman and philanthropist SPS Oberoi.
In 2010, Oberoi had saved 17 young Punjabi from the gallows in Dubai by paying “blood money” in exchange for having spared their lives. His charitable foundation Sarbat Da Bhala has been at the forefront of work for struggling Punjabis in foreign countries.
During the Covid pandemic, Oberoi was helping the government of Punjab meet the demand for medical equipment and oxygen, and also set up oxygen factories in the state. Recipient of several philanthropy awards, Oberoi commutes between Chandigarh and Dubai.
“The AAP was very keen on having him as a CM candidate, but he refused. He is not at all interested in politics and does not want to join any political party. He wants to continue doing his job without any political affiliation, ”his brother Gurjit Oberoi told ThePrint.
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Also considered – a water ecologist and a farm manager
Among others on the AAP CM candidate wishlist is renowned water conservation activist Balbir Singh Seechewal. Known as “Eco Baba”, Seechewal pioneered the cleaning of rivers and canals in Punjab and revived the Kali Bein stream. He received the Padma Shri in 2007.
“Not just the AAP, many politicians are constantly asking me to join their party. But I can not. I can’t lie, I can’t be dishonest, and I can’t make false promises. I’m grateful to have been put on this sewa, which I do and want to continue with that, ”he told ThePrint.
According to AAP sources, farmers’ union leader Balbir Singh Rajewal was a candidate of interest, but the party was unable to wean him from the ongoing agitation against new farm laws.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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