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After Sangrur debacle, Jalandhar bypoll litmus test for AAP

Sukhbir Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal, SAD, Akali Dal, Jalandhar Bypoll
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Web Admin

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5 Dariya News

Sangrur , 09 May 2023

After chastening a humiliating loss less than a year ago, the 13-month AAP government in Punjab is set for a litmus test in a four-cornered another fierce contest for the Jalandhar parliamentary reserved seat in the Dalit-dominated Doaba region, traditionally the Congress bastion, where a victory or defeat will stamp its administrative and leadership acumen.

The bypoll on Wednesday was necessitated with the death of Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary due to a heart attack while taking part in the Punjab leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra of party leader Rahul Gandhi in January.

The Congress, with which the seat remained undefeated since 1999, has fielded Chaudhary's widow Karamjit Kaur as the candidate, while the AAP has given the ticket to Congress turncoat and former legislator Sushil Rinku.

While the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party (SAD-BSP) combine has fielded Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, the BJP has given the ticket to Akali turncoat and former legislator Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal.

In June 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had witnessed a major setback when SAD (Amritsar)'s Simranjit Singh Mann won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat after defeating his nearest rival, AAP's Gurmail Singh, by a slender margin.

The Sangrur constituency was once a stronghold of AAP. Bhagwant Mann had represented this seat twice -- 2014 and 2019. He had vacated the seat after winning the Assembly election in February 2022 from Dhuri and became the Chief Minister.

For the Jalandhar bypoll, the Chaudhary family is banking on votes of Dalits owing to their proximity with Dera Sachkhand Ballan, a prominent Ravidassia community that has much influence in the Doaba region comprising Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts.

Likewise, AAP's candidate Rinku belongs to the Ravidassia sect. The Jalandhar seat has 38 per cent Dalit population, comprising 21 per cent Ravidasias and the remaining Valmiki or Mazhbi Sikhs.

Playing an emotional card, SAD President Sukhbir Badal said strengthening the SAD-BSP alliance by electing its joint candidate Sukhi in the bypoll would be the most appropriate homage to late five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Addressing a public meeting in favour of Sukhi this week, he said: "Badal Sahab was worried about the manner in which divisive politics were spoiling the atmosphere in the state in his last days. He felt an attempt was being made to defame Punjabis by terming them as separatists and imposing the National Security Act (NSA) on them."

"We must defeat such forces," he said while condemning AAP for colluding with the Central government "to defame Punjabis".Delivering an emotional address with a fully loose beard in a style reminiscent of the former chief minister, the SAD chief said: "I have vowed to take Punjab ahead in the same manner as Badal Sahab. 

The entire party is also committed to this task. We will follow the pro-farmer and pro-poor policies of Badal Sahab while standing firm on the principle of peace and communal harmony."Saying that this poll will set the tone for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Congress rebel and BJP leader Capt Amarinder Singh said the vote for the party candidate would strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In his public meetings he maintained that the country needed Modi as the Prime Minister for five more years at least to further strengthen and consolidate its position at global and domestic level.A hardcore nationalist, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was the chief minister from 2002 to 2007 and thereafter from 2017 to September 2021, pleads that the country has emerged stronger and stood up to its enemies like China and Pakistan.

He lashed out at the AAP government, saying it has completely failed the people's expectations despite getting a landslide victory.In appeal to the voters to give one more year so that they could trust AAP in 2024, Chief Minister Mann tried to woo votes by saying, "You (people) kept on giving chances to the Akali Dal and the Congress for 70 years, but they did nothing for you. 

Just give us one more year to work. If you don't like our work, don't vote for us in 2024."AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and Chief Minister Mann on Sunday jointly campaigned by holding four roadshows in various constituencies in a single day.

Slamming the Congress leadership, Kejriwal asked the voters, "I want to ask you, did Rahul Gandhi come to seek votes? Did any big leader of the Congress come to seek votes? They do not need your votes,"

The Jalandhar bypoll is a do-or-die battle for Chief Minister Mann, says a political observer."If the party faces another debacle after Sangrur, it will put Mann on the back foot. If AAP wins it will stamp his administrative and leadership qualities, besides building national narrative as a challenger," an observer told IANS.

For the Congress, the challenge is to live up to its performance in the bypoll, whereas the SAD and BJP will try hard to regain its lost political ground.Projecting a united face, Congress state unit chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, his predecessor Navjot Singh Sidhu, leader of Opposition Bajwa, and former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi took part in a roadshow on Monday.

In the 2022 Assembly polls, the Congress had won in five out of nine segments in the Jalandhar parliamentary seat, while the AAP bagged the remaining seats.Saying the bypoll results will signal the downfall of the Chief Minister, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa said, "Bhagwant Mann is the most self-centered Chief Minister the state could ever have. 

What he cares about the most is his security, his lavish lifestyle, and his expensive dresses, and footwear."In a statement, he said his (Chief Minister's) priorities towards the deteriorated law and order situation of the state can be gauged from the fact that 2,500 police personnel have been deployed for 25 lakh people of Jalandhar district, while 1,200 security personnel have been protecting him and his family.

"With such a big security cover Bhagwant Mann has become the most protected CM the Punjab has ever had," he quipped.There are 16,21,800 voters, comprising 8,44,904 men, 7,76,855 women and 41 transgenders, in the constituency. 

A total of 19 candidates, including four women, are in the fray.The voting will start at 8 a.m. and will continue till 6 p.m., with the counting of ballots on May 13.Chief Electoral Officer Sibin C. said 1,972 polling booths have been set up. All the polling booths have the facility of webcasting to keep a close watch on the election activities.


Tags: Sukhbir Singh Badal , Shiromani Akali Dal , SAD , Akali Dal , Jalandhar Bypoll



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