After springing a surprise in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the Patiala Urban and Talwandi Sabo bypolls in Punjab are test for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a setback in state will prove fatal for the party’s prospects in state which was the only saving grace for the party while the rest of the country rejected them.
The AAP won a total of four seats in the Lok Sabha elections— Patiala, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Faridkot— out of the 13 seats in Punjab, even as it drew a blank in all other states. Though the AAP garnered 24.4% of the total votes in Punjab; secured a lead in 33 assembly segments and came second in 25 others, the AAP’s political stature in Punjab has changed.
With the party’s high command sparring among themselves, and the bypoll campaigns lacking the enthusiasm seen during the Lok Sabha elections. "Every election has different dynamics," said AAP convener for Punjab Sumail Singh Sidhu.
Neither candidates – Harjit Singh Adaltiwala of Patiala Urban nor Baljinder Kaur from Talwandi Sabo – have the charisma of a Bhagwant Mann or a Dr Dharmvira Gandhi. Also, the campaign lacks focus.
Furthermore, party leaders feel that choice of candidates was not the best. “We should have fielded a statesman, a social worker or some noted personality as candidate," admits a party leader. While Dr Gandhi earned support in the Lok Sabha polls due to his personal rapport, Adaltiwala, who was earlier with the SAD, does not seem to enjoy it. The situation is similar at Talwandi Sabo where Kaur is not a popular face.
Besides, during the Lok Sabha polls, Amarinder and a battery of his key aides and leaders left for Amritsar, leaving Preneet to fend for herself, while Gandhi was banking on his personal image and the enthusiasm of AAP workers.