Buoyed by its outstanding performance in Punjab in the Lok Sabha polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has decided to contest the Talwandi Sabo and Patiala byelections on August 21.
The AAP had won four Lok Sabha seats out of 13 in the state, namely Patiala, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Faridkot, even as it drew a blank in all other states. The party leadership is now keen to consolidate its position and expand its base in Punjab. Incidentally, the AAP has decided not to contest the Haryana assembly elections to be held later this year.
Talking to HT on the phone from New Delhi, Patiala AAP MP Dr Dharmvira Gandhi said, “It would be a political suicide if we missed the byelections. We may lose or won, but the big thing is that we must expose both the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress, who are responsible for Punjab’s downslide. Otherwise, Punjabis would lose an alternative to these parties.”
Dr Gandhi said the party had finished a close second from the Patiala Urban assembly seat and third from the Talwandi Sabo segment. Thus, it had a good chance from both seats.
The AAP had garnered 24.4% of the total votes in Punjab, securing a lead in 33 assembly segments and coming second in 25 others. The AAP’s vote share was only 2% less than the Shiromani Akali Dal’s, which got 26% votes, while the Congress got 33% votes and the BJP, 9.7%.
Dr Gandhi said the AAP had found that there were several issues which the opposition Congress had not properly taken up, such as the mafia-controlled sectors of transport, liquor and the sand business, which consisted of leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties. “We will pose questions about these issues to the parties (Congress and SAD-BJP) in the assembly byelections,” he said.
The Patiala MP said the Congress had sidestepped the drug racket issue after names of its own leaders cropped up. “The Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance are hand in glove. We will expose their collusion with evidence,” he said.
He added that besides senior party leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, party volunteers from all over Punjab would focus on both seats.
The party has sought applications from ticket aspirants for the byelections, Dr Gandhi said, adding that 12 AAP members had applied so far. The candidates will be declared during a meeting of the party top brass, to be held at Sunam (Sangrur) from July 24 to 26, he said.