February 18, 2021 4:27:41 am
The principal opposition party in the state, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), failed to make a mark and put up a desultory performance in the civic body polls, winning a meagre number of seats in the municipal corporations and councils.
Despite having lined up top guns of the party from Delhi, including the national spokesperson and vice- chairman of Delhi Jal Board, Raghav Chadha, who is also the state co-incharge of the party, and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, and making confident statements of getting a good result, the party put up a below par performance.
Chadha and the other co-incharge, Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh, had extensively campaigned in the state with the latter having spent four days in the state and holding roadshows back-to-back claiming excellent response from the voters.
The AAP has put up a dismal performance in towns like Budhlada, Barnala, Bhadaur, Dhuri, Jaito, Raikot, Jagraon, Kharar, Sunam and Ropar even though the party has sitting MLAs in most of these towns representing the Assembly constituencies. All MLAs of the party, barring the rebel candidates, had campaigned hard for the party along with the state president and Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann. The party has also put up a poor show in Sangrur, Mann’s parliamentary constituency city.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fared better than AAP. Till the time this report was written, the Congress had won 1,199 of the 1,815 wards of municipal councils and 281 of the 350 municipal corporation seats, with the SAD figures at 289 and 33 respectively, the BJP at 38 and 20 respectively, and the AAP at 57 and nine respectively. The remaining seats went largely to Independents and BSP (K) and CPI winning in 13 and 12 wards respectively.
The AAP leadership had banked upon the adverse fallout of the farmers’ agitation on SAD and BJP causing a tilt towards them in the civic polls. However, while the party has been able to register a presence in the civic bodies in the elections, the results are abysmally poor to boost confidence for a victory in 2022 Assembly polls, as is being projected by the party leaders.
Putting up a brave face in the face of reverses suffered in the elections, Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema said that the party welcomes the “fatwa” issued by the voters of Punjab and said that this was the first time that the AAP had contested the local bodies elections.
Cheema maintained that the results of the municipal bodies’ elections were a “good sign” for the party. “The party’s base in urban areas has increased and the party’s vote share has increased significantly. This is a good sign for the party that the AAP will be even stronger in the urban areas by 2022,” he said.
Cheema thanked the voters of Punjab for giving a chance to the AAP candidates to serve. He said that the winning councillors would serve the people of their ward as ‘sewadars’.
In a reflection of the failure of the party to score in many areas, particularly the Malwa region where the AAP is considered to have its stronghold, Cheema said that the party must have had some shortcomings in contesting the local body elections for the first time. “These shortcomings will be rectified after self-assessment. The work would be done to strengthen the party before the forthcoming Assembly elections,” Cheema added.
Party insiders say that there is a lot that needs to be done to strengthen the party units at the grassroots level. “While there is no doubt that the government of the day has the upper hand in civic body polls and used high-handed methods causing our candidates to suffer, but the fact is that the same held true for SAD too but they have managed to put up a better performance. This is because of their strong cadre base,” the leader said.
However, Cheema claimed that the election results for the party were encouraging to the party leaders, workers and sympathisers. The AAP leader said that in future the youth would also be mobilised by strengthening the party units in the urban areas.
He said that before the Assembly elections, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had made many promises to the people of Punjab which were not fulfilled by the Captain government. “The record of the false promises made by Captain will now be opened to the people of Punjab. Captain Amarinder Singh had promised to provide Ghar-Ghar Rozgar, which was not fulfilled,” he added.
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