Edited By: Nitya Thirumalai
Last Updated: March 10, 2023, 12:25 IST
A win in Jalandhar could give a big boost to the AAP in the Doaba region, which is dominated by Scheduled Caste voters. (PTI/File)
Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll would be the second electoral test for the Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab after the AAP lost Sangrur last year, barely few months after a stupendous win in the state elections
Elections to Lok Sabha bypoll in Jalandhar are yet to be notified by the Election Commission but the constituency is already buzzing with political activity. The bypoll would serve as the popularity index for the ruling AAP and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann one year after they ousted the Congress from power.
The reserved constituency fell vacant after Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary died of a heart attack at the age of 76 while taking part in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra on January 14.
The constituency has been a Congress bastion, with Santokh Singh Chaudhary winning in both 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, the Congress had won five of nine seats in Jalandhar district, while the AAP secured victory on remaining seats.
This would be the second electoral test for the AAP government in Punjab after it lost Sangrur last year, barely few months after a stupendous win in the state elections. The AAP realises the importance of wresting this seat from the Congress. A win here could give a big boost to the party in the Doaba region, which is dominated by Scheduled Caste voters.
“Snatching it from the Congress would give a big boost before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” admitted a senior AAP leader in the region.
It won’t be easy though. The ruling party is facing numerous challenges, the toughest being rebuilding its image following law and order issues in Punjab and corruption cases in Delhi. “The opposition onslaught has obviously created some din. We may have countered them with our claims, but the fact remains that it is a sticking issue,’’ admitted a leader.
The party hasn’t been able to prop up a Dalit face from the region, which many analysts believe may affect its chances. “The problem is we don’t have any prominent Dalit face whom we can project as the candidate though there are a few names in circulation,’’ commented a leader from Doaba.
Party sources said the process of zeroing in on a candidate has begun.
What has made the AAP more desperate is that the performance of the Mann government will come under the scanner. A second defeat after Sangrur could weaken him internally despite a brute majority and he could face some tough questions from the party leadership.
“The party doesn’t want to go into the 2024 battle with a second successive defeat in less than a year. The ability of Mann to lead the party into Lok Sabha polls would come under scanner for sure,” said an insider.
With the Congress desperate to retain the seat to prove its relevance and the BJP breathing down its neck, the AAP is facing some challenging times ahead of the bypoll.
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