The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have announced its decision to contest the byelections to the four Vidhan Sabha seats in Punjab, but at the midway mark of the present Assembly’s tenure, the party’s fortunes have seen a sharp dip in the four constituencies since 2017 polls with rampant infighting making the ensuing electoral battle an uphill struggle.
State president of the party and Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann, recently announced that the party will be contesting the byelections to Dakha, Jalalabad, Phagwara and Mukerian Assembly seats. While the first three constituencies are seeing a bypoll due to resignations, the Mukerian byelection is taking place due to death of the sitting MLA.
A major cause of the waning AAP fortunes in Punjab is the bitter infighting that has taken place in the past in just two-and-a-half years since 2017 assembly polls. While AAP was unable to secure a majority in the House, it emerged as the second largest party with 20 seats. However, with the resignation of MLAs, defections to other parties and a dissident group of MLAs remaining aloof, the party’s ground cadre has been left demoralised.
The leadership tussle and the apparent disinterest of the party high command in solving the internal battles seems to have resulted in a free for fall among the top leaders.
The recent instance of Sunam MLA, Aman Arora, openly ridiculing the party’s state leadership over a media statement released by some legislators led by Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema is the latest issue to rock the AAP boat in the state.
An analysis of party’s performance in the four assembly segments going for by-polls shows that there has been a massive drop in performance as compared to the assembly polls.
In Mukerian assembly segment of Hoshiarpur parliamentary seat, the AAP candidate secured a meagre 2,563 votes in Lok Sabha polls as compared to 17,005 in 2017 assembly polls.
In Dakha assembly constituency of Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat, the party managed to secure only 2,285 votes in 2019. Former MLA HS Phoolka had polled 58,923 votes as the winning candidate in 2017.
Similarly in Phagwara, a seat with strong SC voters presence, AAP managed only 3,061 votes in 2019 compared to 32,374 in 2017. The drop in votes was as sharp in Jalalabad where a mere AAP polled a mere 3,304 votes in Lok Sabha elections whereas in 2017, Bhagwant Mann had secured 56,771 votes.
Arora has gone on record saying that the party has to take corrective measures if it is to think about getting back in its old electoral groove.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Budhlada MLA and Chairman of the core committee of the party’s Punjan wing, Budh Ram, said that recent gatherings at party functions have shown that the people are once again showing hope in AAP because the Congress and SAD-BJP have failed to live up to their hopes.
He said that the party would soon be holding rallies in all assembly segments where the by polls are scheduled to be held. “We have made a panel of the names of party candidates and will be choosing the final candidates from them. This will soon be announced,” he said.