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Five years on, divided AAP now a depleted force in Punjab

As a divided and depleted AAP set the ball rolling for the big electoral battle next year by starting process for selection of candidates, HT takes a look at its nominees of the 2014 parliamentary elections and where they are now:

punjab Updated: Oct 09, 2018 09:31 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
AAP,Punjab,Aam Aadmi Party
Of its 13 candidates, seven, including two of the four MPs, have either been ousted, have switched sides or are under suspension for ‘anti-party’ acts.(HT File )

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has decided to contest around 100 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in a focused manner. Of these, 13 constituencies are in Punjab, the state where the party won all its four seats, out of the 400 it contested, as a rookie player in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

A lot has changed for the Arvind Kejriwal-led party since due to nonstop bickering, factionalism, suspensions and desertions with things only getting worse after its below-expectation showing in the 2017 assembly polls even though it emerged as the principal opposition party in the state.

Of the 20 MLAs, eight have turned rebels. As a divided and depleted AAP set the ball rolling for the big electoral battle next year by starting process for selection of candidates, HT takes a look at its nominees of the 2014 parliamentary elections and where they are now:

Jalandhar constituency

A school teacher by profession, Jyoti Mann, who belongs to Valmiki community, was fielded in the reserved constituency to take on seasoned players. She did fairly well, polling 2.54 lakh votes (about 25% of total votes polled) to take the third position, but fell out with the party leadership soon. Jyoti was “expelled” in April 2015 for her alleged anti-party activities. “They didn’t expel me. I quit the party,” she insists. In January 2017, she joined SAD and is not sure about contesting the upcoming polls.

Current status:SAD member

Hoshiarpur constituency

A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Yamini Gomar, who was running a small computer institute with her husband in the city, got 2.13 lakh (22%) votes. She switched sides to the Congress in December 2016. “I quit AAP because it forgot its core ideology of working for aam aadmi as an agent of change,” she says. Gomar is keen to contest the 2019 LS election. The final decision, she says, will be taken by the party (Congress) leadership.

Current status: Congress member

Sangrur constituency

Known for his side-splitting jokes and biting sarcasm, especially his trademark ‘kikli’ (a satirical speech), Bhagwant Mann won the seat by defeating SAD’s Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa with a record margin of 2.1 lakh votes. He has been blowing hot and cold, quitting the post of state president in protest against Kejriwal’s apology to SAD leader Bikram Majithia in a defamation case. Earlier, he was with Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and had unsuccessfully contested from the Lehragaga assembly seat in 2012.

Current status: AAP MP

Fatehgarh Sahib constituency

Harinder Singh Khalsa, who joined AAP just weeks before the elections, romped home by a handsome margin, but fell out soon. He was suspended in August 2015 for revolting against the party leadership. Unsparing in criticism, he calls it a ‘nautanki’ party (one full of theatrics). A diplomat, Khalsa, while posted in Norway, had resigned from service in protest against Operation Bluestar in June 1984. He was Akali MP from Bathinda from 1996 to 1998.

Current status: Suspended from AAP, MP is no mood for rapprochement

Patiala constituency

One of Patiala’s best-known cardiologists, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi sprung a surprise by defeating Preneet Kaur, an incumbent Union minister and wife of (present chief minister) Captain Amarinder Singh. He has been at loggerheads with Kejriwal and his team since and was suspended from the party three years ago. He floated Punjab Manch, a political action group in March 2018. AAP is trying to reconnect, but Gandhi doesn’t seem keen on reconciliation.

Current status: Suspended from AAP, he has his own outfit

Anandpur Sahib constituency

A Supreme Court lawyer and a barrister-at-law from the UK, Himmat Singh Shergill, who hogged the headlines for fighting the case of Gujarat Sikh farmers in the apex court, lost in a close fight. He stood third with over 3 lakh (28.14%) votes. Last year, Shergill was fielded by AAP against SAD’s Bikram Majithia in Majitha assembly constituency, but lost his security deposit. He is in AAP and has been lying low, politically, since.

Current status: AAP

Ferozepur constituency

Satnam Pal Kamboj, a former chief of the Ferozepur Bar Association, was state vice-president of AAP’s legal cell. In the 2014 polls, he came third with about 1.13 lakh (10%) votes. Kamboj wanted the assembly ticket from Ferozepur, but resigned from the party in Jan 2017, alleging “corruption and nepotism” in candidate selection. He is presently preparing for the bar association elections.

Current status: Quit AAP, but has not joined any other party

Khadoor Sahib constituency

A renowned exponent of Indian classical music and Gurbani kirtan, Bhai Baldeep Singh was directly in contact with Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan and “volunteered” to contest from Khadoor Sahib. He got 1.45 lakh votes in the Akali stronghold, but fell out with the leadership immediately thereafter when he sought “autonomy” for the state unit. He was suspended in April 2015 and handed a notice. Though he gave a long reply, there was no response.

Current status: Suspended AAP leader

Bathinda constituency

The Punjabi singer-actor Jassi Jasraj alias Jasraj was the surprise choice for the Bathinda seat where he was pitted against SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Congress-PPP’s joint candidate Manpreet Badal. He polled just 87,901 (7.47%) votes and lost his security deposit. He ran into trouble for speaking out against the party and was suspended in April 2016 for six years. He patched up with the AAP leadership last year.

Current status: Got suspended, then patched up

Ludhiana constituency

A human rights champion who has been fighting for justice for the 1984 riots victims, HS Phoolka lost to Congress’ Ravneet Singh Bittu, but came second with 26% votes. Last year, he contested the assembly election from Dakha and won the seat to become the leader of opposition, but quit the post in July 2017 to focus on riot cases. In the faction-ridden party, he is probably the only one who can communicate with the different warring groups.

Current status: AAP MLA

Amritsar constituency

Dr Daljit Singh, an ophthalmologist was the AAP candidate against two bigwigs – Capt Amarinder Singh (present chief minister) of Congress and Arun Jaitley (now Union finance minister) of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – and polled 8% votes. After he accused Chhotepur and some other leaders of trying to ruin the party, Singh was expelled for anti-party activities in July 2015. Singh joined Congress just days before the state elections last year.

Current status: Passed away

Faridkot constituency

A Panjab University alumnus, Sadhu Singh had joined the AAP five months before the LS polls and was named the party candidate. The retired college lecturer did not disappoint the party and defeated SAD’s sitting MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan by 1.72 lakh votes. Despite frequent upheavals, he has been steadfast in his support of the party leadership and is a member of the all-important Political Affairs Committee.

Current status: AAP MP

Gurdaspur constituency

A former state convener, Sucha Singh Chhotepur contested against BJP’s Vinod Khanna and polled over 1.73 lakh votes. He was expelled in August 2016 following a ‘sting’ in which he was allegedly shown accepting money from a party supporter. AAP leaders met him last month to persuade him to return to the party, but he is ‘undecided’ and has his own outfit. Chhotepur was a minister in the SS Barnala goverment from which he resigned following police entry into Golden Temple in 1986.

Current status: President, Aapna Punjab Party

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 09:31 IST