Chandigarh: In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, AAP’s senior leadership never focused on the state in a way as if it had big stakes here. The party was proved wrong as Punjab gave AAP all the four seats that India’s newest political party won in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) success was not the only thing that Punjab threw up unexpectedly.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley, facing his first popular election, lost from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat to former chief minister and Congress candidate Amarinder Singh by over one lakh votes.
This was the most embarrassing moment for the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance, which has been in power in the state since 2007.
Though the alliance won six seats (four Akali Dal and two BJP) out of 13, the loss for Jaitley was a big setback. Jaitley was touted to be the next finance minister in Narendra Modi’s incoming government.
The remaining three seats, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, went to the Congress kitty.
That the AAP had caught the fancy of voters in Punjab’s towns and even in the rural hinterland was reflected after the voting in Punjab 13 Lok Sabha seats on April 30.
Even AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal admitted that the Punjab results were “unexpected”. The party, which assumed a national role, competing with the likes of the better-established Congress and BJP, could not win any seat anywhere except for the four – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib – it got in Punjab.
The AAP candidates have interesting profiles.
The Sangrur seat winner, Bhagwant Mann, is an actor-comedian. He was part of the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), a new outfit floated in 2011, till just before the elections. He quit the PPP and joined the AAP recently.
Mann won by a formidable margin of nearly 2.12 lakh votes against his Akali Dal and Congress rivals.
AAP’s Patiala winner Dharam Vira Gandhi is a cardiologist by profession who is actively involved in social service.
Fatehgarh Sahib AAP candidate Harinder Singh Khalsa was in the foreign service in Norway and quit after the 1984 Operation Blustar attack on the Golden Temple complex. He became a human rights activist later.
Another winning candidate, Sadhu Singh, has been an educationist and principal earlier.
AAP candidate on the Ludhiana seat, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, lost by nearly 20,000 votes to Congress candidate Ravneet Bittu.
While the results are a time for introspection for the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance, AAP needs to take Punjab more seriously from now on. For the Congress, the high point was Amarinder’s victory over Jaitley.