AAP faces uphill task in Jalandhar West bypoll : The Tribune India

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AAP faces uphill task in Jalandhar West bypoll

AAP faces uphill task in Jalandhar West bypoll

BJP workers with party candidate Sheetal Angural. Photo: Sarabjit Singh



Tribune News Service

Aparna Banerji

Jalandhar, June 17

With both AAP and BJP announcing tickets for the Jalandhar West Assembly bypoll today, contest for the reserved seat is all set to be a high-stakes battle for prestige between both parties and their candidates.

AAP workers greet party candidate Mahinder Bhagat in Jalandhar on Monday. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

Amidst Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s plans to shift base to Jalandhar ahead of the bypoll, the byelection is set to be a test for him and a formidable challenge for the AAP, following the drubbing the party received in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

With former BJP and now AAP candidate Mahinder Bhagat and former AAP MLA and now BJP candidate Sheetal Angural battling it out to secure their place in regional politics, the bypoll is poised to be a keenly contested match for assertion of regional status.

Awaiting Bhagwant Mann’s imminent shift to Jalandhar in preparation for the bypoll, the AAP is faced with not one but multiple challenges. Delayed MC polls and repeatedly hurled barbs of corruption in civic bodies are a key issue against AAP in the constituency, much of which comprises camp and slum areas whose populace is reeling under sewerage, power and underdevelopment woes. Secondly, the feud between two leaders - foe-turned-friends Sushil Rinku and Angural - has ironically ended up profiting the BJP big time this year as was evident also in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat results.

Additionally, just like the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat, the AAP has once again pinned its hopes on an experienced man with clean image but a relatively passive veteran who is up against a younger, aggressively vocal and active leader.

Last year, the AAP leadership left no stone unturned to douse the flames of animosity between Jalandhar West’s old foes Sheetal Angural and Sushil Rinku when the latter was chosen as the Jalandhar bypoll candidate in 2023.

Rumours even circulated then that Rinku had been brought in to snub then MLA Angural. Rinku’s win by over 58,000 votes in the 2023 Jalandhar bypoll and the decisive winning margin in Jalandhar West bore testimony to the fact that the duo had indeed buried the hatchet.

The benefits of all that toil are now to the advantage of the BJP this year. Also in 2017, Mahinder Bhagat was defeated by Sushil Rinku, then in Congress. In 2022, amidst an AAP wave, Angural had won Jalandhar West by defeating Rinku, who is now strongly backing Angural.

Together, the duo managed an impressive vote share of 42,837 in Jalandhar West for the BJP in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha elections this year. The BJP got just 1,557 votes less than the Congress, which won Jalandhar West with 44,394 votes. The AAP trailed at meagre 15,629 votes in Jalandhar West. The AAP has an uphill task of redeeming this lost vote count.

Right after getting the ticket today, Angural aggressively targeted the AAP and even questioned Bhagat’s candidature. Bhagat also questioned Angural’s candidature from the seat despite his resignation from the MLA post earlier.

Rinku and Angural have been launching repeated tirades against the AAP, often challenging the CM and raking up issues as varied as corruption, time of the bypoll, choice of candidate, CM’s choosing residence here, etc., throughout the Lok Sabha elections and later also. In comparison, the AAP candidate’s responses are relatively passive.

Keenly contested match

With former BJP and now AAP candidate Mahinder Bhagat and former AAP MLA and now BJP candidate Sheetal Angural battling it out to secure their place in regional politics, the bypoll is poised to be a keenly contested match for assertion of regional status.

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The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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