After making an impressive debut in Punjab in the Lok Sabha election by winning four seats, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in a dilemma over contesting the Patiala Urban bypoll.
At a time when the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and opposition Congress are busy shortlisting candidates, the AAP will take a call on its participation on Tuesday at New Delhi, where the outfit's think tank will meet over the issue.
Sources said the party's leadership was divided on the issue with some saying the AAP should not contest the poll while a strong faction feels it should grab the opportunity to enter the Punjab Assembly where it can expose both Akalis and the Congress.
It would have dual motive of raising issues faced by the public and driving home the point that both dominant parties in the state, SAD-BJP and Congress, are two sides of the same coin, sources said.
The AAP 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 SAD's, which got 26% votes, while the Congress got 33% votes and the BJP, a mere 9.7%. Thus, it should contest the election said a section of the party.
In Patiala Urban, the party secured over twice as many votes as the ruling SAD-BJP candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In this assembly segment, the AAP candidate Dr Dharmvira Gandhi finished second with 35,674 votes while Congress' Preneet Kaur secured 43,238 votes, leaving the SAD far behind at 16,432.
"As the AAP finished second in Patiala with more than twice as many votes as the Akalis, it should contest. People have placed us second, and we can emerge victorious here if volunteers from all over Punjab are put here. The AAP can spring a surprise on the (Patiala) royal family, as done by Dr Dharmvira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha polls," said an AAP leader. Even if not Talwandi Sabo, the Patiala-Urban seat must be contested, they opined.
In contrast, a faction felt that it should not contest the election as both rival parties have already done their homework, whereas the AAP is yet to finalise its state and district-level bodies.
There is a strong feeling that the AAP should not contest election, as an adverse result will tarnish the "game changer in 2017 elections" image of the party. At this juncture, no one from either Congress or the SAD would join AAP, whereas many new ticket aspirants would join the party in the run up to the Assembly elections, said the leader, requesting anonymity.
He said the party should focus on making in road into Punjab as any setback in the bid to expand may prove fatal for it at this crucial juncture when it has scored only in Punjab.
Meanwhile, regarding the speculation of candidates for the byelections, AAP leader and Fatehgarh Sahib member of Parliament (MP) Harinder Singh Khalsa said the party had still not decided whether to contest elections and any decision will be taken by the party leadership in a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.