Buoyed by its emphatic win in the Delhi assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has set its sights on Punjab, with the Dhuri bypoll being its immediate target.
The Election Commission (EC) is expected to announce the date for the byelection after the Punjab civic polls are over by February-end.
The seat fell vacant after Congress MLA Arvind Khanna resigned in January. Khanna, a close associate of former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, also quit the party and announced that he had left active politics. The bypoll has to be conducted within six months of the seat falling vacant.
Bhagwant Mann, AAP’s MP from Sangrur, under which Dhuri assembly constituency falls, said: “After Delhi, we are sure of a great response in Punjab as well as there is a huge anti-Akali-BJP sentiment prevailing in the state. The Congress is in complete disarray and people don’t think it can provide a political alternative. We want to go with all our strength to contest the Dhuri bypoll.”
Comedian-turned-politician Mann won the Lok Sabha poll in 2014 from Sangrur by trouncing SAD’s senior leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Congress’ Vijay Inder Singla. From the Dhuri segment, Mann had got 83,189 votes against Dhindsa’s 28,362. Khanna had won the Dhuri seat in 2012, beating SAD’s Gobind Singh Kanjla by 12,473 votes.
However, the major worry for the AAP in Punjab is that despite registering spectacular wins in the Lok Sabha polls from Sangrur and Patiala, it lost two bypolls of assembly seats falling under these parliamentary constituencies in less than four months.
AAP candidate Harjit Singh lost his security deposit in the Patiala bypoll, securing merely 5,724 votes, while its nominee Baljinder Kaur finished third in Talwandi Sabo with 13,899 votes.But party MP from Patiala, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, is also confident after the Delhi success. “Though we have decided not to contest the civic polls as we cannot make preparations at the last minute, we will surely contest the Dhuri bypoll to show that we have not lost our support base in Punjab,” he said.
AAP’s Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who before the Delhi win had said that the final call on whether to contest the Dhuri bypoll was pending, now said he would soon discuss the issue in the party forum.
“If the party is unanimous on contesting the bypoll, I would be equally keen on it,” said Chhotepur.
‘Win will impact Punjab politics’
Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann said the party’s victory in Delhi was as per expectations and it would have a deep impact on Punjab politics. About the BJP’s performance, he quipped, “The (three) BJP MLAs can now go to the assembly on a scooter. The same will be done in Punjab.”
“First, we will form the government in Delhi, then we will focus on the states where elections are due in the next couple of years, including Punjab,” Mann said.
When asked whether he was in the fray as the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate, Mann said, “I will not say that I will be the CM candidate, but I am a dedicated worker and soldier of the party and will accept the responsibility given to me with honesty.”
With inputs from Neeraj Mohan