AAP’s shrinking footprint puts Punjab back in bipolar mode
The AAP, which became the principal opposition party by winning 20 of the 117 assembly seats in the state polls two years ago, led in just seven assembly segments of the 13 Lok Sabha seats.Updated: May 27, 2019 10:23 IST
The Lok Sabha election results have signalled the return of Punjab to bipolar politics with the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) sway on the wane.
The AAP, which became the principal opposition party by winning 20 of the 117 assembly seats in the state polls two years ago, led in just seven assembly segments of the 13 Lok Sabha seats. All seven seats – Dirba, Sunam, Bhadaur, Barnala, Mehal Kalan, Dhuri and Sangur – are part of the Sangrur parliamentary constituency from where the party’s state unit president and sitting MP Bhagwant Mann got re-elected.
An analysis of assembly segment-wise data shows the AAP, which fielded candidates in all 13 parliamentary seats, could not take lead in any assembly segment outside Sangrur despite its national convener Arvind Kejriwal’s roadshows and rallies. The shrinking footprint of the bickering-ridden party brought the state back to bipolar politics, making it a fight between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance.
The AAP nominees trailed in third or fourth positions in several assembly seats won by the party in the 2017 state elections. The party has three MLAs whose assembly segments are part of the Faridkot parliamentary constituency with one of them contesting as rebel, but its sitting MP Sadhu Singh struggled to get double-digit vote share in these segments.
He got 10,711 votes in Kotkapura assembly constituency that Kultar Singh Sandhwan won by a handsome margin. The AAP had won Nihal Singh Wala assembly seat by 27,574 votes in 2017, but got just 15,914 votes this time. Jaitu MLA Baldev Singh, who was in the fray as rebel, could barely muster 3,000 votes in his own constituency, whereas Sadhu got 13,028.
In the Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, Baljinder Kaur, who is sitting MLA from Talwandi Sabo, polled about 10,000 votes in the assembly constituency she had won by 19,253 votes. Similarly, she got just 6,944 votes in Bathinda Rural seat held by Rupinder Kaur Ruby of her party. Though Baljinder did get support in Mansa, Maur and Budhlada, she remained a distant third in all three assembly constituencies and, consequently, in the parliamentary seat.
AAP’s state core committee chief Budh Ram represents Budhlada in the assembly whereas Mansa MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia quit the party to join the Congress last month. Similarly, Maur legislator Jagdev Singh Kamalu, who revolted against the AAP leadership, backed another party rebel Sukhpal Singh Khaira who was also in the fray from Bathinda. Khaira, who had led the rebellion, managed to get just 38,199 (3.18%) votes.
The party’s vote share that plunged from 24% in 2017 to 7.36% is a sign of worry for the state leadership. AAP legislature party leader Harpal Singh Cheema, from whose Dirba seat Mann got a lead of 30,000 votes, says the party will introspection and take steps to streamline and strengthen the organisational set-up to get back into the game. “Those (rebels) who tried to damage the party have failed because people realised what they trying to do and taught them a lesson,” he says.