by HS Bawa
Committing political harakiri, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which released its Election Manifesto for the Youth in Punjab, messed up the use of imagery by putting their election symbol – broom – right on a visual of Sri Darbar Sahib, one of the holiest Sikh shrines, thus opening the floodgates for some sharp political attacks.
Even as a sense of shock ran through the Sikh community in general, AAP senior leader Ashish Khetan further muddied the waters for his party by making a foot-in–the-mouth statement.
Releasing the manifesto, he said, “Youth Manifesto is our religious text, like Gita and the Guru Granth Sahib.”
The twin blunders in the course of a single day, and committed in the presence of the top leadership of the party, namely, Arvind Kejriwal, Sanjay Singh, Bhagwant Mann, Sucha Singh Chhotepur and others, have underlined the utter disconnect of AAP’s leadership with the local sentiments, religious sensitivities and the dominance of outsider elements.
Even within the party, many second and third rung leaders were left shell- shocked by the visiual representation on the cover of the party’s manifesto, the first in a promised series of such documents.
Comparing a political party’s election manifesto with centuries-old and much revered religious scriptures of both majority and minority communities in a casually made statement is not likely to go down well with any section of voters in Punjab or elsewhere.
AAP, that sees itself as a serious contender for power in the state, may have to pay a heavy price unless it makes immediate amends.
For the communities, that have well-codified procedures for even disposing of the old and weathered volumes of scriptures, the use of an image of a broom alongside the holiest shrine and drawing highly irresponsible comparisons is akin to not only shooting oneself in the foot, but a reflection of the apathy, insensitivity and utter disregard for the feelings of not just Sikhs or Punjabis but right-thinking people everywhere.
Even the God-negating communist parties have not made such a mistake in the contemporary political history of the region.
The move, best described as a young party proving itself to be a novice at a time when every step of political parties is being watched carefully by the people as well as rivals, may even fall foul of the Election Commission.
The election code of conduct draws a clear line against making appeals of a religious nature, but AAP seems to have actually put the image of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, on a document that is to be submitted to the EC. Neither Akali Dal nor the Congress has ever used such imagery in their manifestos in the past.
Khetan’s statement has hurt the religious sentiments of Punjabis and all those who believe in the Gita and Sri Guru Granth Sahib, adding that AAP will have only itself to blame if it has egg on the face in this matter.
YesPunjab, as a news portal that prides itself for its objectivity and also for reflecting the concerns and challenges of the larger Punjabi community anywhere in the world, takes very strong exception to the casualness with which some AAP leaders and the party have conducted themselves in the matter.
We are not saying that it was intentional, but we have no hesitation in terming it highly irresponsible, thoughtless and a shameful act, and expect that the party would express its unqualified regret without losing any time.
The Manifesto of any party is a highly political document related to the elections and as such no party could be allowed to use or invoke religion in such a manner, least of all through such objectionable imagery.
All senior leaders of the party could be considered a party to the blunder committed on Sunday since they were present on the stage when the Manifesto was released.
While one can only surmise if they noticed the blunder in multicolor or were unduly overwhelmed by the ‘AAP wave’ they perceive and decided to go ahead with the idea, critics be damned.
The most unfortunate part of this episode that has the Golden Temple photo on the Manifesto alongside a broom is that senior AAP brains from Punjab including journalists with claims of understanding Punjab better than many political stalwarts, drafted, designed and presented the Manifesto released by Kejriwal.
YesPunjab.com does not represent or align with any political outfit and we believe in fair and independent journalism. We do not comment on every mistake of every political party and believe that in the rough and tumble of democratic expression, statements often balance each other out or the readers/people make their own inferences.
However, in this case, we would be amiss in our duty if we did not point out that the blunder in the form of use of such images and the further disregard for sentiments of Hindus and Sikhs merited a strong editorial intervention.
We demand that the Aam Aadmi Party must honestly admit that it committed a blunder, and must understand the gravity of its actions. The proud people of Punjab who may have many differences among themselves, including political, expect none other than Kejriwal and Ashish Khetan to tender unconditional apology immediately. Failure to do so or demurring in the name of politics will only confirm that it was all intentional and custom-designed to rile the people. It is a mistake any political party can ill-afford, least of all a rookie.
HS Bawa can be reached at [email protected]