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A wake-up call for AAP in Punjab ahead of 2019 LS polls

Party candidate got 23,579 votes, a minuscule 2.74% of the votes polled, forfeiting his security deposit, in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection

chandigarh Updated: Oct 20, 2017 10:05 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Gurdaspur byelection,AAP,Lok Sabha
AAP leaders hold flame of hope brought by NRIs from UK, ahead of the Punjab assembly elections. (HT File Photo )

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has faced bad news before. There have been several disappointments – its failure to live up to huge expectations in the state polls, constant infighting and desertions – for the party since it made a foray into Punjab three-and-a-half years ago.

But the outcome of the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection, particularly the severity of its drubbing, is a humiliating blow for the infighting-ridden party that was looking at the high-stake battle as a chance to redeem itself. AAP candidate Maj Gen (retd) Suresh Kumar Khajuria got 23,579 votes, a minuscule 2.74% of the votes polled, forfeiting his security deposit. Of the nine assembly segments falling in the Lok Sabha constituency, he failed to get even 3,000 votes in seven.

The dismal showing is a wake-up call for the AAP with just over a year to go for the 2019 parliamentary polls. The party had bagged four – the only ones it won across the country – of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in the 2014 elections. In Gurdaspur, AAP candidate Sucha Singh Chhotepur, was third with 1.73 lakh votes then, but was ousted from the party last year.

This time, the odds were stacked against the AAP from day one, as it had fared poorly in the Majha region, which includes Gurdaspur, during the assembly polls in February this year, leading to fireworks. Though the party leaders had started showing semblance of unity lately, internal bickering resurfaced quickly.

As the poll campaign began, eight local leaders, including five of its nine assembly candidates in the area, switched sides. Also, none of its central leaders, especially national convener Arvind Kejriwal, its main vote-catcher, showed up, leaving the fight to state leadership led by Punjab unit president Bhagwant Mann and Sukhpal Khaira, leader of opposition in the state assembly.

Though both Mann and Khaira worked hard, they saw the impending defeat even before the counting of votes. Khaira on Friday termed the poll result as “meaningless”, but later ascribed the rout to the state’s track record of going with the ruling party. “We humbly accept d verdict of Gurdaspur but remember d track record of PB by-elections Jis Di Lathi Uss Di Bhains Cong lost all during SAD (sic),” he tweeted after the result was declared.

The defeat has left the party supporters in despair and may trigger another blame game though one that started after the assembly poll still continues.

First Published: Oct 16, 2017 09:05 IST