ChandÄ«garh: Three months after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stunned the whole country with its landslide victory in the Punjab assembly elections, Sangrur’s parliamentary ballot party candidate suffered a surprising defeat to Sikh hardliner Simranjit Singh Mann, who until his last victory was seen as an insignificant fringe figure in Punjab politics.
The result was a big setback for the AAP as well as a personal humiliation for Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Mann held Sangrur’s parliamentary seat for two consecutive terms in 2014 and 2019 before stepping down in March this year to be sworn in as Punjab’s chief minister, necessitating the indirect vote.
In 2019, Mann won this seat by a margin of over 1 lakh votes. In the 2022 assembly polls, the AAP candidates had won all nine assembly segments falling into the parliamentary seat of Sangrur, considered a pocket borough of Mann and an AAP stronghold.
The result of Sangrur’s indirect poll is a reminder, however, that nothing is permanent in politics.
AAP candidate Gurmail Singh, a close aide to Mann, lost the seat to 77-year-old Simranjit Singh Mann of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) by 5,822 votes as 2,47,332 votes were polled in his favor against the 2 ,53,154 votes of Mann.
Although Mann’s margin of victory is slim, he has still maintained a lead over Singh since the count began at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. His lead continued to fluctuate but he stayed ahead of the AAP candidate throughout.
What made AAP lose and Simranjit Singh win?
First and foremost, the AAP lost due to its inability to maintain public order in Punjab.
The recent communal clashes and gang wars left Punjabis high and dry after voting the AAP government with the biggest mandate ever in assembly polls with hopes for a better administration.
Instead, murders involving gangsters have become even more common.
The broad daylight murder of singer Sidhu Moosewala last month shocked the people of Punjab deeply, which many believe played a major role in the defeat of the AAP candidates in the latest poll.
The AAP has been widely blamed for Moosewala’s death since two days before his murder, the Mann government had reduced its security in the name of “breaking the whip on VVIP culture” in the state.
Additionally, the AAP had promised to stop drug-related deaths and farmer suicides once it formed the state government. However, the drug trade continued as usual, as evidenced by regular deaths of young people in Punjab due to a drug overdose.
Farmer suicides too continued relentlessly, the last reason being crop loss due to the March-April heat wave in northern India.
Apart from this, word had spread among the Punjabis that the AAP government of the state was run from DelhiMann being reduced to a “rubber stamp” chief minister.
There is a huge political message behind Simranjit Mann’s victory; that people have, once again, rejected the candidates of the big parties and decided to vote for a marginal political element that has not won an election for more than two decades now.
The Congress candidates, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the SAD occupied the third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
For Simranjit Mann, who last won a poll in 1999 from the same parliamentary seat of Sangrur, it was a shot in the arm. Neither he nor his outfit, SAD (Amritsar), a splinter group from the main SAD led by the Badal family, have been effective since then.
On what made Simranjit Mann win this time around, former AAP MP and senior journalist Kanwar Sandhu said Thread that there are several reasons.
First, people are still fed up with the main opposition parties in Punjab, like SAD, BJP and Congress.
Second, the unbalanced performance of the AAP since it formed the government in Punjab; otherwise, it would have been impossible for a chief minister to lose his own constituency in such a short time.
âThirdly, there was an emotional appeal behind Mann’s victory. Considering his age, it was probably his last poll. People must have been swayed by his continued struggle in electoral politics,â Sandhu added.
Fourth, said Sandhu, the murder of Sidhu Mooselwala, which benefited him politically.
âIn this election, Mann did not raise the issue of Khalistan. On the contrary, he stuck to campaigning for Punjab’s federal rights, something that came to light after Moosewala’s death,â Sandhu said.
Moosewala’s last song, which was posted posthumously (and has since been removed from YouTube) was based on the issue of Punjab’s river water sharing agreement with neighboring Haryana. Punjabis oppose sharing the river water with Haryana and blame the Union government for the centuries-old dispute.
Panth’s vote consolidation is also an important factor
In Punjab, a significant part of the population continues to vote for the name of the Sikh panth and Simranjit Mann’s victory is seen as the consolidation of the Sikh panth vote, which the Badal-led SAD also attempted, but failed.
Badal’s party has lined up Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana, sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana who was sentenced to death for her involvement in the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995, to reach out to vote for Sikh base, which was once the most formidable party. support base.
However, she ended up in fifth position with only 44,428 votes.
Before declaring Rajoana’s sister as the party’s candidate, SAD Chairman Sukhbir Badal met with Simranjeet Mann to nominate a common candidate for the Sangrur by-vote. But Mann decided to go solo, which ultimately paid off.
After his victory, Mann credited his victory to the Punjab youth, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala and those who were ‘shahid‘ with him.
Many fear that with his victory, religion-based politics will take center stage in the state, just three months after voters in Punjab rejected appeals to caste and religion; a major factor in the AAP’s victory in 92 of the assembly’s 117 constituencies.
Mann won more at the expense of Congress and the SAD than the AAP
According to the data, Simranjit Mann, whose vote share in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency rose from 4% (48,000) in the 2019 elections to 35% (2.53 lakh) in the 2022 by-election polls, won the election more at the expense of Congress and Akali Dal than the AAP.
In 2019, the winner, Bhagwant Mann of AAP, got 37% (4.12 lakh) of the total votes (11 lakh). In this by-election, the AAP’s vote share was reduced to 34% (2.47 Lakh) of the total polled votes (7.10 lakh).
But the drop in Congressional and SAD vote shares may be more significant.
In 2019, the Congress candidate garnered over 27% of the vote (3.03 lakh), but in the 2022 partial polls, the party candidate’s vote share fell to just 11% (79,668 votes).
For the SAD, the performance was just as bad. In 2019, his candidate won 23% of the vote (2.63 lakh), which has now fallen to just 6% (44,428 votes).
The BJP, which was running for this seat for the first time, obtained only 9% of the vote (66,298 votes).
AAP blames low turnout
AAP spokesman Malvinder Singh Kang argued that low polls, among other factors, were responsible for the party’s defeat.
The poll in Sangrur’s indirect poll was 45%, the lowest since 1991, which went against the party.
As to whether the party lost due to performance issues, he said that couldn’t be the case. According to him, the party is doing well in Punjab. He made key decisions to get rid of corruption and improve agriculture in Punjab
âBut the result, without a doubt, is a revelation. We will analyze it and take corrective action in the coming days,â he added.
Kang was also surprised that the party lost constituencies like Dirba, Malerkotla, Amargarh, Barnala and others (belonging to Sangrur parliamentary constituency), which it won convincingly just three months ago in the polls of the assembly.
Kang also blamed the poor performance of mainstream party candidates on Simranjit Mann’s victory.
Following the result, opposition Congress leader Partap Bajwa tweeted at AAP, saying that âPR can never replace good governance.
â Partap Singh Bajwa (@Partap_Sbajwa) June 26, 2022
BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, meanwhile, tweeted that Sangrur’s poll results are a “clear reflection of Punjabi sentiments”.
#SangrurBypoll results a clear reflection of the feelings of the Punjabis.
– Clear rejection of Super CM or Delhi-based dictator.
– BJP’s vote share has doubled while Congress and SAD’s share has fallen by 50% since 2017
I congratulate Simranjit Singh Mann Ji on his victory over @AAPPunjab
â Manjinder Singh Sirsa (@mssirsa) June 26, 2022