Farmers' Body's "Alcohol" Jibe At AAP's Pick For Punjab

Samyukta Samaj Morcha chief Balbir Singh Rajewal said that he was "pressured by the people" to contest polls as they have lost hope from the traditional parties.

The Samyukta Samaj Morcha will contest all the 117 assembly seats in the state, he said.

Chandigarh:

Farmers decided to contest elections in Punjab as "people wanted us to clear the filth created by political parties," a key member of a farmer group has told NDTV. "We are here to save Punjab, to improve the system... Politicians in the state are not doing anything," said Samyukta Samaj Morcha Chief Balbir Singh Rajewal, indicating that they are not considering any political alliances yet.  

Asserting that the Samyukta Samaj Morcha will contest all the 117 assembly seats in the state, the 80-year-old farmer leader said he was "pressured by the people" to contest polls. The people, he said, have given up on the traditional parties.

"Politicians in the state are not doing anything. There is administrative corruption. Politicians have digressed from a traditional motive of service to the people. The Aam Aadmi (common man) is facing difficulty," said Mr Rajewal, who claims to be one of the founders of the farmer movement.

"The situation in Punjab is getting worse. Children here have lost hope. They are migrating in large numbers due to unemployment. There are no jobs. This will increase the crime rate," he added.

Asked about a possible alliance with Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, which has emerged as a strong player in the state, Mr Rajewal said, "I want people who can save Punjab. People are with us. This is a mistaken belief that this movement will die down".

He also targeted AAP for choosing Bhagwant Mann as its Chief Ministerial candidate. "Everyone knows about the chief ministerial choice of the Aam Aadmi Party. Who doesn't know he can't live without alcohol?" he said.

Bhagwant Mann -- AAP's most prominent face in Punjab who was announced its Chief Ministerial candidate recently -- is repeatedly targeted by on this point, even after his public resolve not to touch alcohol ever at a rally in 2019.  

In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Mr Mann said his political rivals target him on this issue as they have no other ammunition against him.

"Punjab has given me a stamp… They have nothing else to say on me. There is no corruption, no Enforcement Directorate raids, no Income Tax raids. I have a clean image... I still live in a rented house...They have been saying this for me for 11 years," Mr Mann told NDTV.

Mr Mann was declared as the chief ministerial face of the AAP on January 18 after a "Janta Chunegi Apna CM" tele-poll.

A comedian-turned-politician, Mr Mann is a two-time Lok Sabha MP from the Sangrur parliamentary constituency.

Polling for the assembly polls in Punjab will be held on February 20 and the counting of votes will take place on March 10.

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