Ruchika M. Khanna
Chandigarh, June 26
AAP’s electoral defeat in the bypoll to Punjab’s Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, which is considered the prime domain of the ruling party, has proved that their stupendous win in the state Assembly polls held earlier this year was not a vote in favour of the party, but a vote against the other traditional parties. The AAP joining ranks with the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal in terms of voters’ disillusionment within just 100 days of rule, however, is alarming.
What is worse is that it has also put a question mark on the leadership of Bhagwant Mann as the Chief Minister. Sangrur was represented by him for the past two terms — in 2014 and 2019. He had won this seat when there was a BJP wave across the country. The byelection was necessitated after his resignation. The entire top brass of the party, including Mann himself, had campaigned vigorously for the party candidate. For the last ten days, all ministers and most MLAs had stationed themselves in Sangrur and launched a vigorous campaign. In spite of this, the disillusionment of the voters was evident as the constituency witnessed the lowest turnout in recent history.
Party MLAs and other leaders have already started murmuring about the lack of independence given to the state unit of the party by the party high command, which is being cited as an important reason for the defeat. They say that this has led to no clear chain of command, thus affecting governance.
The murder of singer Sidhu Moosewala and the menace caused by gangsters has made people wary. Though the party pollsters tried hard to wean away the voters from the law and order situation in Punjab to the government’s drive against corruption, it has apparently not yielded results. We will need a course correction immediately, said an MLA from Malwa, saying experienced leaders will have to be brought at the forefront in the government.
The defeat does not augur well for the AAP, as it is unheard of a party in power to have suffered an electoral defeat within 100 days of being elected to power. This, especially, as all nine Assembly seats in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency are represented by AAP MLAs. In the Assembly elections held in February this year, the party had bagged an average of 40 per cent votes. This time, the total polling percentage was 45 per cent.
Meanwhilke, having suffered the defeat, it was left to party chief spokesperson Malwinder Singh Kang to defend his party. “Our voters did not come out to vote as they were busy in paddy transplantation and many were travelling because of summer vacation. It is not for the first time that a ruling party lost parliamentary election. In 2014, during the Akali-BJP rule in Punjab, the AAP had won four seats. During the Congress rule in 2019, the AAP won one seat, the Akali Dal won two and the BJP won one seat,” he said.
Kang said the AAP had retained its 35 percent vote share.
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