New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has made a nuanced shift in its stand on Sidhu Moose Wala’s murder, calling the singer-rapper a “victim of gang violence”. This pivot came after the Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab faced backlash when the state police initially dubbed Moose Wala’s killing a case of “gang rivalry”.
“Those leaders, who have been associating Sidhu with gangsters and blaming him for promoting gun culture in Punjab, are now playing cheap tactics to gain political mileage and malign the AAP government’s clean image…. He was a renowned singer who has been a victim of gang violence. It is unfortunate that political opponents are playing dirty politics on this matter,” Malvinder Singh Kang, chief spokesperson of the AAP’s Punjab unit, said during a press conference Thursday.
Asked about the pivot in AAP’s stand on Moose Wala’s killing, Kang told ThePrint Friday: “The CM or the party never associated him with any gang.”
Hours after armed assailants opened fire at Sidhu Moose Wala in Mansa district on 29 May, Punjab’s Director General of Police (DGP) V. K. Bhawra had said that the attack seemed to be the result of an inter-gang rivalry. Bhawra had also mentioned that the name of Moose Wala’s manager Shaganpreet — who is believed to have fled to Australia — had figured in the murder of youth Akali Dal leader Vicky Middukhera last year.
However, the top cop did not elaborate further on whether Moose Wala had any specific role in the suspected gang rivalry affair, which led to a gap in the narrative and confusion among fans and followers.
Opposition parties in Punjab, including the Congress, questioned the “gang rivalry” theory with the party’s Punjab unit chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring saying that the AAP government was “running away from its responsibility by calling it (the murder) a gang rivalry”. Sidhu Moose Wala had unsuccessfully contested the recent assembly polls from Punjab’s Mansa on a Congress ticket.
“The gang rivalry narrative somehow left an impression on people that AAP was trying to brand Moose Wala as a member of some gang. People were angry. It was visible in his village during the cremation and across the state, especially over social media. The party had to go for a nuanced shift in its stand on the issue,” a senior AAP functionary told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Sources in the Punjab government told ThePrint that Sidhu Moose Wala’s relatives had also dismissed the ‘gang rivalry’ theory during their meeting with Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann on 30 May. The singer-rapper’s kin had asserted that he had been receiving repeated threats from gangsters.
A large number of people gathered in protest outside Moose Wala’s bungalow in Moosa village during CM Mann’s visit Friday. Officials in the police and district administration said that the protesters, while accusing the government of inaction, also criticised the ‘gang rivalry’ theory.
Earlier last week, AAP MLA from Sardulgarh constituency of Mansa district, Gurpreet Singh Banawali, had also faced protests by locals when he went to express solidarity with Moose Wala’s family.
“The AAP’s allegations are baseless,” Congress leader and Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira told ThePrint when asked to comment on the change in AAP’s stance on the killing. “There is public angst against them because they have failed on the law and order front.”
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)