AAP’s Punjab dominance ends abruptly

The only saving grace for AAP was to win Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s bastion Sangrur this time…reports Vishal Gulati

 In a humiliating defeat to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab two years after its landslide victory, its Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and party’s national convener, Arvind Kejriwal, set an ambitious target of winning all 13 Lok Sabha seats on Tuesday and won just three seats, with four of five cabinet ministers failing to secure victories.

However, it improved its 2019 performance when it managed to win a lone seat.

Instead, the main Opposition Congress, which was at the helm between 2017 and 2022, won seven seats, while Independents won two and the Shiromani Akali Dal won one seat.

The BJP, which has won two seats in alliance with SAD in 2019, was blank in 2024.

Except for minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer (Sangrur), all four ministers — Health Minister Balbir Singh (Patiala), Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khuddian (Bathinda), NRI Affairs Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal (Amritsar), and Transport Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar from Khadoor Sahib — lost the elections. Also its three legislators lost the parliamentary poll.

Political observers told IANS that the party was banking heavily on its populist schemes, like the free power of 300 units a month to each household, free Aam Aadmi mohalla clinics, 43,000 government jobs, the repair of canals and the establishment of schools of eminence.

However, the only saving grace for AAP was to win Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s bastion Sangrur this time.

The Congress INDIA ally AAP, which had decided to go solo in Lok Sabha polls, won only three seats. The other AAP two candidates who won the poll were Malwinder Singh Kang (Anandpur Sahib) and Raj Kumar Chabbewal (Hoshiarpur- reserved).

In a last-minute bid just hours before the campaigning for 13 parliamentary seats come to an end, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal campaigned with the state counterpart for party candidate Hayer.

Ludhiana: Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal during an interaction with business associates, in Ludhiana, Tuesday, May 28, 2024.(IANS/X/@AamAadmiParty)

Both led a road show with the AAP candidate from Sangrur and appealed to the people to make Meet Hayer MP with record votes with a message: “If we have 13 MPs from Punjab, then all of them will become Bhagwant Mann’s hands and voice in the Parliament.”

Addressing the people, Kejriwal had said Sangrur is the home constituency of Chief Minister Mann.

“You have made him the Chief Minister. This time too, we have a lot of expectations from you. Therefore, make AAP candidate Meet Hayer win here with the highest margin.”

Surprisingly, in a setback to AAP in June 2022, just three months after coming to power, the two-time MP and former IPS officer, Simranjit Singh Mann, who has been demanding an independent homeland — called Khalistan — won the bypoll in the Sangrur Parliamentary constituency.

Speaking at the roadshow amidst the blistering heat wave, Kejriwal had said: “You elect us with a record majority in the assembly elections. You gave 92 out of 117 MLAs to the Aam Aadmi Party. Now strengthen us in the Lok Sabha, so that we can easily get Punjab’s work done from the central government and get all the pending funds of Punjab released”.

State Chief Minister Mann had appealed to the people and said in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections: “You made me win by about 2.14 lakh votes. I will be very happy when you break that record and make Meet Hayer win by 2.5 lakh votes. Then we will be able to work with more hard work and dedication.”

Bhagwant Mann represents the Dhuri Assembly seat, while his Cabinet minister, Meet Hayer, is a legislator from Barnala — both seats are part of the Sangrur Parliamentary constituency.

Meet Hayer defeated Congress nominee Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the legislator from Bholath in Kapurthala, by a margin of 172,560 votes.

The outgoing MP Simranjit Singh Mann, who had won this Parliamentary seat in 1999, finished runner up with a margin of 176,839 votes.

Banking on rural electorates, he was mainly raising issues concerning the Sikhs and is strict with the idea of Khalistan, a separate state.

From this seat, the former legislator and businessman Arvind Khanna was BJP’s candidate, while Shiromani Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Badal fielded former legislator Iqbal Singh Jhundan.

The former lost by a margin of 235,832 votes, while the latter by 3,01,597 votes.

In 2019, Bhagwant Mann was the lone AAP MP in Parliament and he had defeated the then Congress candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon by more than 1.1 lakh votes from Sangrur.

The by-poll for Sangrur was necessitated following the resignation of Bhagwant Mann, who won the Assembly election in February from the Dhuri constituency and became the Chief Minister.

In the 2022 Punjab Assembly poll, AAP notched a stupendous victory, winning 92 out of the 117 Assembly seats.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at gulatiians@gmail.com)

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