As the AAP faced a massive defeat in the Rajouri Garden bypoll Thursday, the party cited former MLA Jarnail Singh’s premature exit from the seat to contest the Punjab polls as the main reason for its loss. While it was hotly debated whether Singh should have refused to “abandon” his voters for “higher ambitions”, the former AAP MLA told The Indian Express, “Winning and losing is part of electoral politics. It was the party’s decision to field me against Badal and I did not object to it. But it is time for deep and honest introspection within the party,” Singh said.
“The party has gotten a lot of work done in the constituency in just two years’ time. New classrooms were built in 80 schools, a new crematorium and a graveyard were built, sewage works of Rs 4.5 crore were done, water connections were given, 400 streetlights were fixed, pensions were released, new transformers were procured and power connections were given out. My office had delivered and addressed problems of 14,000 residents,” Singh said. “It is possible that people were so happy with my work that they did not want me to go.”
Singh — a former journalist who catapulted to public attention in 2009 after he hurled a shoe at former Union Minister
P Chidambaram at a press conference — had first contested on an AAP ticket in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 but lost. In the 2015 Assembly polls, he won by a margin of over 10,000 votes, defeating BJP’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
After his defeat in Punjab, Singh was himself hesitant to contest a fourth time due to paucity of funds. The party, too, was not keen on fielding him as internal feedback and surveys pointed to “anger” among voters. Plus, with the bypoll announced at short notice, Singh had very little time to change his voter details back to Delhi.
Dissenters within the party said Singh shouldn’t have left his constituency. “Singh should have refused to go but he had his own ambitions, might have thought he would become a minister,” said rebel AAP MLA from Timarpur Pankaj Pushkar.