By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh: When almost the entire country rejected the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the parliamentary elections, Punjab went against the tide and gave the new-born party its electoral debut in the Lok Sabha with four seats. The same AAP was Monday summarily rejected by the electorate in the by-elections for two assembly seats in Punjab.
On both seats, the AAP even failed to put up a fight to the main contenders. The party and its candidates not only meekly surrendered but lost their security deposits too. This has put a big question mark on the political future of AAP in Punjab.
While the Congress retained the Patiala assembly seat through its candidate Preneet Kaur, former union minister of state for external affairs and wife of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, the Talwandi Sabo assembly seat in Bathinda district of southwest Punjab went to ruling Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Jeet Mohinder Singh.
The AAP candidate in the Patiala seat, Harjeet Singh, could manage just about 5,700 votes and lost his security deposit.
Preneet Kaur won by 23,282 votes against her Akali Dal rival Bhagwan Dass Juneja, a social worker. The Akali Dal chose a Hindu candidate for the seat to break the hold of Amarinder Singh’s family, the erstwhile royals of Patiala.
The AAP party’s candidate Dharamvira Gandhi, a cardiologist, won the recent Lok Sabha polls from the Patiala parliamentary constituency by over 20,000 votes. He defeated Preneet Kaur, a three-time MP from this seat, and the Akali Dal candidate.
But in the by-election in Patiala, the voters completely rejected the AAP. In the Lok Sabha polls, the AAP had got over 34,000 votes from the same assembly segment. In just three months, the AAP tally came down to less than 6,000 – clearly indicating that voters were disillusioned with the way the party was doing things at the national level and also in Punjab.
In May this year, voters in Punjab had elected for AAP candidates to the Lok Sabha. These included comedian-actor Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur), Sadhu Singh (Faridkot), Harinder Singh Khalsa (Fatehgarh Sahib) and Dharamvira Gandhi (Patiala). Mann won by the biggest margin in Punjab – nearly 2.12 lakh votes, while Sadhu Singh won by over 1.72 lakh votes.
For the Talwandi Sabo seat, the AAP created controversy over naming of its candidate. It first announced singer Balkar Singh as candidate but changed him soon after with Baljinder Kaur. An upset Balkar Singh contested the by-poll as an independent candidate. Both lost their security deposits Monday.
AAP leaders, including its convenor Arvind Kejriwal, have failed to create an impact in Punjab in the post-Lok Sabha results scenario. The AAP has not even been able to project any leader as its face for Punjab. Most of its leaders in Punjab are self-declared. The party has not been able to build up its cadre of workers despite winning four Lok Sabha seats. The popular faces that AAP has in Punjab are that of Bhagwant Mann and lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka.