As the counting of votes was on, supporters of SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann Sunday kept on chanting Satnam Waheguru, standing on both sides of the verandah of his house near police lines in Sangrur. There were ups and downs — sometimes Mann and sometimes AAP’s Gurmel Singh was leading.
“It is like a T20 match — exciting after every round. We will win for sure,” said Harpal Singh Baler, general secretary of SAD (Amritsar).
As the contest got intense, prayers got louder. The supporters were served tea and samosa but no one was interested in having the snacks. “Result aan to baad hi kha pavange (We will have tea after the results),” said Mohd Furkhan Quereshi, Malerkotla district president of SAD (Amritsar).
He said, “This time, Muslims in Malerkotla supported Mann saab wholeheartedly. People had been supporting Congress and Akali Dal earlier. In the Vidhan Sabha polls, they even supported AAP. But they found AAP is the same. Hence, they decided to support Mann saab. They support his thoughts for minorities and Khalistan as well.”
When only 9,000 votes were left to be counted and Mann was leading with 7,052 votes, his supporters were still not ready to distribute ladoos. “Let the results be declared finally. We cannot take even one per cent chance,” said Jaswant Singh Cheema, SAD (Amritsar) leader.
It was 2 pm and Mann was declared winner by 5,822 votes. His supporters distributed laddoos, danced to dhol beats and raised slogans in favour of actor and activist Deep Sidhu, who died in February this year in a road accident, and slain singer Sidhu Moosewala.
Mann stepped out of his house and took out a roadshow to pay obeisance at Mastuana Sahib Gurdwara and later take his certificate of victory.
Apart from Sidhu Moosewala amar rahe and Deep Sindhu amar rahe, the other slogans went like this: Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal and Allah-hu Akbar. The supporters also raised slogans in favour of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale whose picture could be seen in the living room of Mann.
Outside the counting centre at Desh Bhagat College, Dhuri, supporters of SAD (Amritsar) celebrated the victory. “AAP had disillusioned us with inaccessibility of their MLAs and no delivery of work at ground level. Then murder of Moosewala shook us all. What was the need of declaring that security had been withdrawn (of Moosewala)? Youngsters were hurt. We cannot forgive any government for this. This is not the way to deal with our international icon,” said Jaspreet Singh, a student.
Mantar Singh from Bhadaur said, “We were the ones who first gave Bhagwant Mann a chance in 2014 and later in 2019. Now we are the ones who have defeated him. Voters need to be respected but AAP has started taking us for granted. From Bhadaur, we chose Labh Singh Ugoke over the then CM Charanjit Singh Channi and now we defeated AAP and preferred Mann saab from the same constituency.”
Gurjant Singh Badrukhan from Sangrur said, “Never take public for granted. Youth was hurt with Moosewala’s murder. Many others were disgruntled who never went to vote. AAP should learn a lesson. They need to remember ‘perform or perish’.”
Kuldeep Singh Bhagowal, general secretary of SAD (Amritsar), said, “Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema had made fun of Maan saab by saying that he will make a record in losing elections. Now I want to ask him: Isn’t it a record for a party to lose a bypoll which had won 92 seats in Vidhan Sabha with a huge mandate four months back? Punjab can’t be governed by Delhi people. People have sent this message to Punjab CM.”
Former Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi said, “On the last day of campaign, Bhagwant Mann was seen hanging from the window of SUV while Kejriwal was standing through its sunroof during a roadshow in Barnala. People didn’t like this second-class treatment being met to their CM.”
Gurpreet Singh from Bhadaur said, “AAP had roped in all their 92 MLAs. Punjab CM had spent a week in this constituency. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia also came for one day each but still they couldn’t save this stronghold of AAP.”
“People had made traditional parties lose in February 2022 and AAP came out as one option for them at that time. When they did not deliver, the same party was shown the mirror just after four months. Punjab has chosen their own Panthic party. A win of Sangrur is a win of whole Punjab. Inqlaabs do happen in Sangrur, the proof is before you all,” said Mandeep Kaur, a supporter of SAD (Amritsar), outside the Dhuri counting centre.