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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: AAP faces its rebels on 4 seats in Punjab

The AAP rebels, sitting Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, former legislature party leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, MLA Baldev Singh and singer-turned-politician Jassi Jasraj, are contesting from Patiala, Bathinda, Faridkot and Sangrur seats, respectively.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 19, 2019 14:27 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
File photo of AAP rebel and Punjab Ekta Party president Sukhpal Singh Khaira (in front, in green turban) at a road show in Bathinda from where he is contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
File photo of AAP rebel and Punjab Ekta Party president Sukhpal Singh Khaira (in front, in green turban) at a road show in Bathinda from where he is contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. (Sanjeev Kumar / HT Photo )
         

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had dismissed the party rebels as “power-hungry opportunists” a few months ago, is now facing a challenge from them in four Lok Sabha constituencies of Punjab.

The rebels, sitting Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, former legislature party leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, MLA Baldev Singh and singer-turned-politician Jassi Jasraj, are contesting from Patiala, Bathinda, Faridkot and Sangrur seats, respectively. The party had won three of these seats (except Bathinda) in the 2014 parliamentary polls.

While Dr Gandhi was suspended from the primary membership of the AAP within months of winning his seat for “anti-party activities”, the remaining three left the AAP in the past four months following differences with the central leadership. All four are in the fray as candidates of the six-party Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) stitched together by Khaira. Their aim appears to be to defeat the erstwhile party and emerge as the third alternative in the state.

The infighting-ridden AAP, which had won four of the 13 seats with 24.4% of the votes polled during its stunning debut in the state in 2014, is fighting a survival battle with the rebels posing the biggest challenge. The groundswell of support seen at that time for the party and its promise of “new brand of politics” is missing this time. If the AAP draws a blank or slips behind the PDA in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, things could get worse for the party that has been wracked by squabbles and splits.

Also Read | Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi launches online crowdfunding campaign

AAP’s first state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who has closely observed the state politics for more than four decades and had a bitter parting with it, said the rebels would dent the party the most, cutting into its vote share.

“When there is a split, it hurts the parent party,” says the former minister who is not an admirer of Khaira either.

The AAP has fielded trade wing head Neena Mittal, who belongs to a business family, from Patiala where she faces Dr Gandhi who had defeated three-time former MP Preneet Kaur, the wife of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, by over 20,000 votes five years ago. The rebel MP’s Nava Punjab Party is a part of the PDA.

Baldev Singh, dissident AAP legislator from Jaitu, has taken on AAP MP Sadhu Singh, who is seeking re-election from Faridkot. Baldev is contesting polls as the candidate of Khaira’s Punjab Ekta Party (PEP).

Read | Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh maintained low profile during his tenure

Khaira, who led the rebellion against AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal after being removed from the post of leader of opposition in Punjab assembly, is contesting from Bathinda where both the SAD and Congress are still to name their candidates.

Though the AAP had not done well in Bathinda in 2014, the seat has become a matter of prestige for the party with three other dissident MLAs openly campaigning for Khaira. The party has fielded Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur against the two-time Bholath legislator.

The Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), a constituent of the PDA, has fielded Jassi Jasraj, who was the AAP candidate from Bathinda in 2014 and switched sides recently, against sitting MP and AAP state unit president Bhagwant Mann in Sangrur.

Though Mann had won the seat by a whopping 2.11 lakh votes, he is locked in a tight battle with former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the Akali Dal and Kewal Singh Dhillon of the Congress this time, and cannot afford a dent in his vote bank.

For complete coverage of Lok Sabha Elections 2019, click here

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 14:27 IST

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