The AAP has ‘tentatively’ decided to contest the by-election for the Shahkot Vidhan Sabha seat which has fallen vacant following the death of the incumbent MLA, Ajit Singh Kohar, a senior SAD leader, earlier this month.
This will be the third major electoral foray by AAP in Punjab after the 2017 Assembly polls in which it emerged as the largest opposition party though it fell short of the expectations of the party’s leadership. The party received a drubbing in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election in which its candidate lost his security deposit. This was followed by the local bodies polls in which AAP again put up a dismal show.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the state co-president of the party, Aman Arora, said the party would contesting the election. “While there has not been any formal discussions held within the party regarding the Shahkot bypoll yet, but as of now, yes we will contest. This is in line with the decision taken by the party earlier that all elections in the state will be fought,” he said. Arora said AAP had been strengthening its cadres and organisational structure in Doaba as well as Majha after the Assembly poll results and that the new office-bearers were already in position and were active in their respective areas.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, AAP had managed to garner seats only from the Malwa area and the performance in the Majha and Doaba regions was not upto the mark. Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Khaira’s seat from Bholath in Kapurthala district and Jai Kishan Singh Rodi from Garhshankar were the only saving grace for AAP in Doaba.
However, in Shahkot, in Jalandhar district, AAP had put up a strong performance against the candidates of SAD as well as Congress. It’s candidate Amarjit Singh Thind had received over 40,000 votes in comparision to the 41,963 votes polled by the Congress candidate, Hardev Singh Laddi and 46,858 votes received by the winning candidate from SAD, Ajit Singh Kohar. On being asked if the party will repeat the candidate of the 2017 election, Aman Arora said that a call will be taken on this in due course of time.
A senior AAP leader, who did not wish to be named, said the party needs to do some “careful thinking” before taking a decision on contesting the Shahkot by-election. “There is no doubt that our candidate there had gathered a good number of votes in 2017 but we also have to see where we stand one year after the Assembly polls. In case we contest and again come a cropper like in Gurdaspur, it could harm us more,” he said.
The candidate from Shahkot in February 2017 polls, Amarijit Singh Thind, however, believed that AAP could fare better than before because the voters have seen through the policies of the Congress government in the state.