Explained: What AAP’s loss in Sangrur bypoll means for the party’s future

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that was on a high after its emphatic win in Punjab just three months ago was brought down after its candidate lo...

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that was on a high after its emphatic win in Punjab just three months ago was brought down after its candidate lost from politically important Sangrur parliamentary constituency in the bypolls, results of which were announced on Sunday.

The bypoll in Sangrur, Punjab, was called after Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann vacated the seat on winning the Assembly polls.

As per the final tally, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) candidate Simranjit Singh Mann beat his AAP rival Gurmail Singh by a margin of 6,070 votes.

Following his victory, the 77-year-old president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) — not related to the larger Shiromani Akali Dal — said, “I am grateful to our voters of Sangrur for having elected me as your representative in Parliament. I will work hard to ameliorate the sufferings of our farmers, farm-labour, traders and everyone in my constituency.”

“I humbly accept the verdict given by people of Sangrur. I am working day and night with honesty for the progress and prosperity of Punjab and will continue to work harder…I am your son and will spare no effort to brighten the future of your families,” Punjab chief minister and senior AAP leader Bhagwant Mann tweeted after the poll outcome.

Who is Simranjit Singh Mann?

Simranjit Singh Mann, a former IPS officer who had resigned in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984, returns to Parliament after two decades; he had last won the same seat in 1999.

His earlier parliamentary victory was in 1989 from Tarn Taran, when he created a row insisting that he should be allowed entry into the House with a sword, saying this was a Sikh’s right.

In the recently-held Assembly elections, he contested from the Alamgarh seat and came second there.

Simranjit Singh Mann also had the backing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala who was shot dead by gangsters last month. In fact, many of Mann’s supporters were seen doing the thigh-slap and raising their index finger to the sky, a gesture associated with singer Sidhu Moose Wala.

Speaking with reporters, Mann dedicated his victory to the people of Sangrur, to the late actor-activist Deep Sidhu and singer Moose Wala, “who gave their blood for the Sikh community”.

He claimed his victory will have repercussions on Indian politics, and recalled how people had laughed at his failure to win elections over several years.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Harjinder Singh Dhami congratulated Mann on his victory and expressed hope that he will raise Sikh issues in Parliament.

Why AAP lost Sangrur?

Sangrur in recent times has been considered AAP’s turf, with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann himself winning from the parliamentary constituency twice — in 2014 and 2019.

In fact, the loss at Sangrur surprised many of AAP’s senior leaders in Delhi.

AAP’s national spokesperson Sanjay Singh said, as per a PTI report, “Sometime people cast their votes driven by emotion. This is what happened there. Driven by emotion, people voted in favour of Simran Singh Mann.

“Maybe because of his (Simran Singh’s advanced) age and also because he had been facing defeat in elections for the last several years that people voted for him out of emotion.

“If the Bhagwant Mann government’s performance was so bad, the traditional parties — Congress, Akali Dal and BJP — should have got the votes.”

Raghav Chadha, the AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab, attributed the party’s defeat to the low turnout.

The murder of singer-turned-politician Sidhu Moose Wala is another reason that is being attributed for AAP’s loss. Many of the rapper’s supporters and fans blamed the AAP government for pulling his security cover and stated that the government had put him in danger when they shared the list on social media of those whose security had been revoked.

Another reason that could be behind AAP’s loss could be the fact that the party fielded a weak candidate in the form of Gurmail Singh. Though Gurmail Singh is a close confidante of Bhagwant Mann, he pales in comparison to the chief minister.

Additionally, he could do little to reverse the anti-government angst over the Moose Wala death, reports Indian Express.

What the loss means for AAP?

The biggest repercussion of AAP’s loss in the Sangrur bypoll is that the party now has no representation in the Lok Sabha.

After being formed in 2012, the AAP won four seats in the 2014 general elections. However, the party’s presence in the lower house of Parliament has declined since then. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the AAP managed to win just one seat from Sangrur, with a vote share of 7.36 per cent.

The loss also sends a strong message to the party in Punjab that people are not “overwhelmingly” in its favour.

Noted political analyst Sanjay Kumar said in a PTI report, “They have to be very cautious and take this defeat as a rejection of the party in power.”

The defeat puts a big question mark on the leadership of Chief Minister Mann and it also comes at a time when the party is aggressively campaigning for the upcoming Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and looking to expand its footprint in other states.

After the bypoll result, Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring said the decisive defeat of the AAP candidate was a referendum against the government as it had miserably failed to meet the expectations of the people who had voted en masse for the party just three months ago.

“This is an unprecedented defeat of a ruling party that is in office for just 100 days,” he said and claimed that at least 4.5 lakh people voted against the AAP candidate in Sangrur.

“It is actually a verdict against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who has been running the show from behind the scenes," Warring alleged, adding it should be a lesson for CM Bhagwant Mann who has surrendered his authority to Kejriwal and is always too keen to play second fiddle to him.”

With inputs from agencies

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