Sangrur: Prestige at stake, AAP puts best foot forward to wrest its ‘political capital’ : The Tribune India

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Sangrur: Prestige at stake, AAP puts best foot forward to wrest its ‘political capital’

Ruling party candidate had lost to SAD (A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann in 2022 Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll

Sangrur: Prestige at stake, AAP puts best foot forward to wrest its ‘political capital’

CM Bhagwant Mann during a roadshow in favour of AAP candidate Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer in Lehra. Tribune photo: Vicky

Tribune News Service

Ruchika M Khanna

Sangrur, May 28

As the day of contest for the “Battle Royale” of Punjab in the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat draws near, the big guns in fray here are going all out to woo voters. With the ruling AAP going all guns blazing to wrest its “political capital” back from Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) sitting MP Simranjit Singh Mann, the other parties have mostly left the candidates on their own, albeit with little support from their “friends” within their respective political parties.

Congress’ Sukhpal Khaira campaigns in Malerkotla.

After all, personal reputation of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his three Cabinet colleagues — party candidate and Sports Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema and Renewable Energy Minister Aman Arora — as mass leaders is at stake here, since all four of them represent Assembly segments falling in the Sangrur LS seat.

CM Mann has represented this constituency as an MP for AAP for eight years — from 2014 to 2022 — before the ruling party lost the elections to Simranjit Singh Mann in the bypoll necessitated by Bhagwant Mann’s resignation after he became the CM.

The loss of Sangrur was a big blow to AAP, and to the CM personally, especially when the bypoll was held just two months after the party had stormed to power, winning 92 of 117 Assembly seats. The voters here gave their mandate to Simranjit Singh Mann, who rode to success amidst inflamed Sikh emotions after the “mysterious” death of actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu and the murder of singer Sidhu Moosewala.

Asked about the voter choice in 2022, in the wake of Sangrur rejecting the party, after electing AAP MLAs in all nine Assembly segments of the parliamentary constituency, Gunbir Singh of Dhuri quipped: “Sadda nahin kasoor, sadda zila Sangrur”, referring to the Sangrur tradition of going against the grain in each election.

Interestingly, when AAP lost in Lok Sabha elections from everywhere in the country in 2019, it was only Sangrur that sent an MP from the party (Bhagwant Mann) to the Lok Sabha. No wonder that for AAP, the battle here is a matter of prestige. This explains the multiple roadshows held by CM Mann in favour of Hayer today at Lehra, Dirba and Dhuri.

In this election, the party faces a formidable challenge from former AAP leader and present Congress candidate Sukhpal Singh Khaira, besides sitting MP Simranjit Singh Mann. Khaira, who many call the “one-man Opposition” to AAP, is also getting enough eyeballs here to make the contest very close.

Though being referred to and dismissed by AAP in its campaign as an outsider (since he hails from Bholath in Doaba region), Khaira told The Tribune: “My reputation as a leader who does not succumb to pressure from government in power has travelled in Sangrur and is getting me a lot of support from voters here, who are generally anti-establishment. Also, in two years, AAP has not been able to deliver on the development front. Two medical colleges were proposed for Sangrur, but there is no sign of these.

He added: “The district, being the home district of CM, sees a wide section of employees camping and protesting here against unfulfilled promises, which has also turned the voters against them.”

The huge row of the yellow police barricades outside the Dreamland Colony, where Mann has a house is proof of the long agitations witnessed regularly in the city.

On the other hand, AAP also faces the issues of rampant drug abuse and incidents of snatching by addicts, including in Mann’s own constituency of Dhuri. At the bus stand of Malerkotla Chowk, The Tribune team found an addict lying unconscious, while another woman was begging for alms to feed her family, after her son had stolen away all the money to buy “chitta”.

Kulwant Singh, who works in a rice shelling and export unit here, when asked about the drug issue being a major issue in the CM’s constituency, said: “No one dares to speak against the smugglers. The only thing that I as an individual can do is to financially help the families of victims. The police and administration know everything but they prefer not to act. We have accepted that things will not change.”

Realising this, AAP candidate Meet Hayer has started addressing the issue. In his election campaign, he has started saying he will rid the youth here of drug addiction, open a new university for higher education, promote sports and industrialisation for improving employment generation here.

While Simranjit Singh Mann continues to seek mandate on issues concerning Sikhs, BJP candidate Arvind Khanna, is trying to woo the urban voters with a pro-Hindu agenda. His past reputation of opening many employment vistas for local residents, when he was an MLA, are holding him in good stead in urban areas.

The voters of Sangrur, when asked about the status of different parties in the Lok Sabha poll this time, refuse to reveal their mind, while counting the plusses and minuses of AAP candidate Meet Hayer, Congress’ Sukhpal Khaira, SAD’s Iqbal Singh Jhunda, BJP’s Arvind Khanna and sitting MP and SAD(A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann.

“It is a multi-cornered contest. Each of these candidates have their own pockets of influence. It is very difficult to predict the mood of the voter. But you must remember that voters of Sangrur generally throw a surprise candidate,” said Rajinder Singh, a resident of Sangrur city.

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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.

#Lok Sabha #Sangrur #Simranjit Singh Mann

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