In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party sprang a surprise by winning four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, but this polls the party is contention for a possible victory only on one seat, Sangrur.
That too due to AAP candidate and sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Bhagwant Mann’s personal popularity in the constituency situated in the Malwa region of the state which was considered a stronghold of the party when it was a rising force in Punjab politics.
In fact, five of nine Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Sangrur parliamentary constituency, which also includes Barnala district, belong to AAP.
Even more besides Mann, the other top two AAP leaders in the state, leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema and the chief of the poll campaign committee, Aman Arora also come from Sangrur.
Therefore the result of this Lok Sabha constituency may very well hold the key to AAP’s future in the state as party, hit by intense infighting and desertions, has lost ground drastically and is now fighting for its survival in Punjab.
The AAP Punjab president, Mann is pitted in a triangular contest with Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) candidate, Parminder Singh Dhindsa. And with his personal appeal as a popular comedian and rapport with voters as a MP, Mann is holding his ground in Sangrur despite the dwindling stock of AAP.
During his poll campaign, Mann is attacking both the Congress and SAD by alleging a glove-in-hand between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and SAD leader, Parkash Singh Badal. “Both (Badals and Amarinder) had been changing hands in power and supporting each other for their petty personal and political ends whenever they come to power.
Land mafia, sand mafia, drug mafia and transport mafia, had gained a foothold during the terms of both the parties,” Mann said. He is also highlighting the utilisation of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme for setting up libraries, smart classrooms, gyms and providing better furniture in schools.
“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,” Mann said.
Congress’ Dhillon, who is one of the richest candidates in Punjab, claims that people may listen to Mann’s jokes but would not vote for him. Listing the performance of the Amarinder Singh-led state government, the Congress candidate is promising to bring a university and industrial development to the area to provide jobs to the local youth.