Lok Sabha election results: For AAP, Bhagwant Mann face-saverhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/lok-sabha-election-results-for-aap-bhagwant-mann-face-saver-5745566/

Lok Sabha election results: For AAP, Bhagwant Mann face-saver

The massive drop in the number of votes received by AAP candidates in 2019 as compared to 2014 is indicative of the slide that the party has seen in its popularity in Punjab.

Mann calls Khaira ‘opportunistic’
Mann defeated his nearest rival Kewal Singh Dhillon of Congress by a margin of just over one lakh votes. (Express photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

For the second consecutive time, Punjab is the only state in the country to send an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader to the Lok Sabha. The tally, however, has come down this time from four in 2014 to one even as most of its candidates forfeited their security deposits.

Battered by infighting and split within its ranks, the AAP managed to secure a reelection for its state president, Bhagwant Mann, from Sangrur. He is the first MP to score a consecutive win from Sangrur after former Chief Minister Surjit Singh Barnala of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) who had won successive terms from the parliamentary constituency in 1996 followed by 1998.

Mann defeated his nearest rival Kewal Singh Dhillon of Congress by a margin of just over one lakh votes. However, the margin of victory has nearly halved from 2,11,751 in 2014 general elections.

AAP has paid heavily for the infighting, which broke out almost immediately after the 2017 assembly poll debacle and continued in the lead up to the Lok Sabha polls with MLAs breaking away to form their own parties and two of them joining the Congress. The grassroots cadre of the party was as divided as the leadership, which resulted in a loss of confidence among the voters as well as a split in votes among the respective factions.

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The massive drop in the number of votes received by AAP candidates in 2019 as compared to 2014 is indicative of the slide that the party has seen in its popularity in Punjab.

In three constituencies of Bathinda, Patiala and Faridkot, the AAP candidates had to face opposition from former party members, two of them sitting party MLAs and one a sitting MP. Former Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira, elected MLA on AAP ticket from Bholath and whose resignation from assembly is not yet accepted, faced off against party candidate Baljinder Kaur in Bathinda. Baldev Singh, party MLA from Jaito took on sitting AAP MP Sadhu Singh from Faridkot, while suspended party MP from Patiala Dr Dharamvira Gandhi contested against official AAP candidate Neena Mittal.

There was a feeling within the party too that Sangrur was its best bet for retaining a seat and therefore there was a concentrated focus on the parliamentary seat right from from Day 1. Mann was first off the block as far as campaigning in the state for Lok Sabha polls was concerned and his name as Sangrur candidate was announced by the party as early as October 2018.

National Convenor of the party and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, also camped in Sangrur and nearby areas for a week after conclusion of polls in Delhi taking out road shows in support of Mann. A religious card was also played by AAP as there was a repeated emphasis by Mann and Kejriwal in their speeches on the homage paid by Lok Sabha to two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh for their martyrdom at hands of Mughals based on a resolution moved by Mann.

While Congress candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon had lost the 2017 assembly polls from Barnala, an assembly segment in Sangrur parliamentary constituency, to an AAP candidate, Mann also benefited from the anger against Akalis for the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during their tenure in Punjab.