The AAP’s shock defeat on the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab threw a spanner in the party’s celebrations over its victory in the Rajinder Nagar assembly by-election in Delhi after the results came out on Sunday.
The SAD (Amritsar) president and Khalistan proponent Simranjit Singh Mann defeated the AAP candidate Gurmail Singh in the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency by a margin of 5,822 votes, dealing a blow to the Arvind Kejriwal-led party which stormed to power in Punjab barely three months ago.
The AAP’s drubbing in Sangrur surprised many of its senior leaders in Delhi as the seat is considered to be the party’s stronghold. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had won it twice, and in the state polls earlier this year, the party bagged all the nine assembly seats that fall under the Lok Sabha constituency.
After the bypolls results came in, the AAP’s Punjab unit conceded its defeat and promised to work harder for the progress and prosperity of the state.
In Delhi, the party’s state unit celebrated its victory in Rajinder Nagar bypolls in the presence of its state convenor Gopal Rai and other senior party leaders. Taking to Twitter, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Kejriwal hailed the victory in Rajinder Nagar, calling it a defeat of the BJP’s ”dirty politics”, and an appreciation of work done by his government in Delhi.
AAP candidate Durgesh Pathak comfortably won the Rajinder Nagar assembly seat by defeating his immediate rival, BJP’s Rajesh Bhatia, with a margin of over 11,000 votes.
Speaking to PTI, the AAP’s national spokesperson Sanjay Singh attributed the party’s defeat in Sangrur Lok Sabha seat to the people’s ”emotion” in favour of SAD (Amritsar) candidate. The bypoll results should not be seen as the people’s verdict on the performance of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s government, he said.
”Sometimes people cast their votes driven by emotion. This is what happened there. Driven by emotion, people voted in favour of Simran Singh Mann,” Singh said.
When asked to elaborate, the AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP said, ”Maybe because of his (Simran Singh’s advanced) age and also because he had been facing defeat in elections for the last several years that people voted for him out of emotion.”
If the Bhagwant Mann government’s performance was so bad, the traditional parties — Congress, Akali Dal and BJP — should have got the votes, Singh contended. ”But the votes went in favour of an individual (Simran Singh). And Congress, Akali Dal and BJP candidates all of them lost even their deposits,” he said, stressing the Mann government has done ”“exemplary work” in Punjab over the past three months.
The AAP’s newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Raghav Chadha attributed the party’s defeat in the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat to a lower turnout of the voters due to paddy harvest season and the extreme heat this time.
He, however, said the bypoll results ”clearly” indicate the AAP’s votes remain almost intact and Simranjit Singh Mann won the seat because other parties’ votes went to him. ”While the AAP’s vote share came down to 35 percent from 37 per cent, the Congress vote percentage fell down to 11 per cent from 27 percent and Akali Dal’s vote slid down to 6 per cent from the previous 24 percent,” he said.
The figures clearly show that the Aam Aadmi Party gave a tough fight to its rivals, he claimed. ”Punjab wiped out other parties,” he said, adding ”We accepted the people’s verdict with all humility. We will work harder.”
Noted political analyst Sanjay Kumar said the Sangrur bypoll results should rather be seen as the victory of ”an individual” than the defeat of the ruling AAP. ”Look at the candidate who got elected. He has been a prominent figure in the state and he does not belong to any established political party. So it is the victory of the candidate rather than the party,” he said.
He, however, said the Sangrur bypoll results has sent out ”a strong message” to the AAP in Punjab that people are not ”overwhelmingly” in its favour even as the party came to power recording a landslide victory in the state assembly polls three months ago.
”They have to be very cautious and take this defeat as a rejection of the party in power,” Kumar, who is co-director of Delhi-based think tank Loknity-CSDS, told PTI.
He said the AAP won the Rajinder Nagar assembly seat in Delhi as it is a ”tried and tested” political party in the national capital and its government has ”performed well for almost 10 years now”.
”While in Punjab, the party is still to be tested he added.