A lower voter turnout, allegedly due to intimidation by the AAP through ”misuse of government machinery”, hit the Congress’ prospects in the bypoll for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat, the party’s Punjab unit chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring said on Sunday.
Warring claimed many voters who did not cast their votes were Congress supporters and alleged that they did not turn up because the AAP misused the government machinery and intimated them.
The Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye-election, which was won by the AAP’s Sushil Rinku, recorded a 54.70 per cent voter turnout. The turnout was well below the 63.04 per cent recorded in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
”I think the low turnout… somewhere that was our (Congress) voters and the reason (behind them not casting their votes) was that the voter was intimidated by the state machinery, including police.
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”Records were taken from our sarpanches (supporting the Congress) and they were intimidated… We lost because (a section of) our voters, out of fear, did not come to cast their votes,” Warring told reporters when asked to comment on the party’s loss from Jalandhar, a seat considered to be its citadel.
The AAP on Saturday breached the Congress stronghold in Punjab with Rinku defeating the grand old party nominee Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary by 58,691 votes.
Rinku, who joined the AAP after quitting the Congress before the bypoll, polled 3,02,279 (3.02 lakh) votes while Kaur secured 2,43,588 (2.43 lakh), according to Election Commission data.
The Congress had not lost the Jalandhar parliamentary seat since 1999.
Taking a dig at the AAP, Warring said, ”They put all their machinery into service but still got 15,000 fewer votes than last time. A year ago, they got about 3.17 lakh votes from Jalandhar whereas they polled around 3.02 lakh this time.” Warring was referring to the aggregate of votes the AAP secured in the 2022 elections from assembly segments that form the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat.
He added that he was not running away from responsibility for defeat in the bypoll as the party’s state unit chief and said, at the same time, there was not much for the AAP to boast about.
”(Delhi Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal and (Punjab Chief Minister) Bhagwant Mann said they won the Jalandhar bypoll and that the people have given them a big mandate and (that) the people of Punjab have put a stamp on their work.
”But when the AAP had lost the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll last year within three months of coming to power in Punjab, why did they not say they lost because people were disillusioned with them and they lost because of various shortcomings?” Warring asked.
The AAP should also look at its performance in Karnataka where the party, which recently received ‘national’ status, could secure only 0.58 per cent of the votes polled, the Congress leader said.
”Earlier, in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, they lost deposits and faced a crushing defeat,” he added.
The area where Mann held a roadshow in Karnataka, the ”AAP secured only 384 votes”, Warring claimed.
”And they are saying they have inflicted a big defeat on the Congress in Jalandhar where they pressed all their machinery into service,” he said.
Warring also alleged that the AAP dispensation has fulfilled only one major electoral promise — that of providing free power — since assuming power last year.
”They have fulfilled only the promise of free power but I don’t think that too is sustainable,” he said.
Asked about the Congress’ victory in the Karnataka assembly elections, Warring said, ”Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi ji, Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra) ji and (Congress chief Mallikarjun) Kharge ji, we have secured a big win.” He also exuded confidence about the Congress winning in Madhya Pradesh and retaining power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are due later this year.