Shahkot bypoll result a body blow for AAP ahead of 2019 LS contest
AAP candidate Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan not only forfeited his security deposit, but he got a minuscule 1,900 votes (less than 1.5% of the votes polled).Updated: Jun 01, 2018 09:35 IST
An ignominious defeat in the crucial assembly bypoll in Shahkot is a body blow to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections. The poor show of the principal opposition party, which remained a distant third with abysmally low votes, has come at a time when its supporters’ morale is already low due to an apology tendered by AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia to settle a defamation case over drug-related allegations.
AAP candidate Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan not only forfeited his security deposit, but he got a minuscule 1,900 votes (less than 1.5% of the votes polled) in the battle that saw Congress emerge victorious by more than 38,000 votes. He barely managed to stay above NOTA (none of the above), and lost even in his own village, from which he takes his surname.
The severity of the defeat is a clear sign that the party, which got 41,010 (31% votes) in this constituency in the state assembly polls last year, has been rejected outright. The Congress, which lost by around 4,000 votes last year, made substantial gains at AAP’s cost.
Rocked by continuous squabbling in its ranks, worsened by the party chief’s apology, AAP was never in the contest. The first blow was dealt when Amarjit Singh, the party candidate in the 2017 election, joined the SAD in March. He had got more than 40,000 votes last time.
Then, party bigwigs, particularly Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, were not in favour of contesting the election, sensing “political realities” prevailing on the ground. “During the byelections, people want to get their work done from the government. We are a small party and need to focus on building organisational set-up at the grassroots,” Mann had told HT on May 5.
While the party leadership ignored any reservations and named the candidate, the campaign never picked up as most party big guns made guest appearances. Mann, arguably the AAP’s most popular face in Punjab, was abroad for most period of the campaign. Similarly, leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira, known for his aggressive speechmaking, made just occasional appearances.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia was also expected at the road show held in the closing stages of campaign, for which Mann did turn up; but he was absent. On polling day, too, there was no sign of party workers at booths. Thursday’s drubbing, coupled with similar losses in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency and municipal polls, is bad omen for the party with the general elections just nine months away. The slide may be checked if the party leadership, especially Kejriwal, whose charisma drew the state electors towards it, makes an earnest effort. There is no sign of it so far, though.
“It (defeat) was writing on the wall. I and Bhagwant Mann had suggested to the party not to contest the bypoll,” said Khaira, adding, “But the party did not accept our suggestion and we had to go by what the party leadership decided.”