Chandigarh: Unlike the last parliamentary elections when AAP was in the forefront of political discourse in Punjab and came out with stunning performance by winning 4 seats in debut election, the thinks have changed drastically for the party. After intense infighting and many desertions by its leaders, the party is fighting for survival and relevance in Punjab. The one seat from where AAP has any chance of salvaging its image is Sangrur from where its sitting MP and state president Bhagwant Mann is contesting. Bhagwant Mann is probably the only candidate of AAP in Punjab who is in with realistic chance of a win. He is pitted in a triangular contest with Kewal Singh Dhillon of Congress, Parminder Singh Dhindsa of SAD (Badal). The battle of Sangrur is seen by many as matter of survival for AAP, which otherwise will lose relevance. The Bhagwant Mann has rekindled hope among its cadres by being the only candidate who can prevent complete slide of the party by registering a win. The party which was considered a hot favourite to form the state government two years ago has now been shrunk to Sangrur.
The main party leaders of AAP including Mann , Aman Arora the chief of the poll campaign committee and Harpal Singh Cheema the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly are all from Sangrur. The area under this parliamentary constituency that includes Sangrur and Barnala districts had emerged as the AAP stronghold in the 2017 assembly polls sending five of the total nine MLAs. With AAP downslide continuing and its support base shrinking across Punjab, the bastion of Sangrur is offering the party some hope of re-election Jhadu (poll symbol) as it is better known among the masses. In the state the party continues to witness desertion by its leaders after the departures of leaders and its ally Lok Insaf Party (LIP) and split in the last two years.
Mann has been hitting out at the Congress Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for engineering departures of AAP leaders in the state and at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for doing the same in Delhi. “What is the point of having elections? You should allow our leaders to win and then purchase them. Shame on you for such politics! I will not let my people down,” he says in a video that he has shared on social media.
Interestingly, Mann is still popular among people and has old style of campaigning as he along with his supporters goes to the village sath (common place) and address the villagers. In his every village meeting he is saying that he has been able to raise issues of public in the parliament and had been the voice of common people.
Exuding confidence Mann says “ I have support of people of Sangrur I am going to win comfortably as people are with me. It is between Congress and SAD to compete for second and third position. We are welcomed by villagers everywhere, whereas SAD and Congress candidates are shown black flags and stopped by villagers from entering the villages,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parminder Dhindsa of SAD has been promising development along with Modi’s model of growth. But he has been facing a tough time on the issue of sacrilege of holy texts that took place during the tenure of the SAD-BJP regime. He is also trying to sell the idea to the electorate that both demonetization and Goods and Services Tax (GST) would deliver long term benefits to the country. The failure of the Akalis to revive on the political turf of Punjab is a major roadblock for him.
On the other hand Kewal Singh Dhillon of Congress is talking about bringing industrial development to the area and providing jobs to the local youth.