Is Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) decreasing vote share in Punjab a good news for the ruling Congress and bad for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)? The result of the Shahkot bypoll on Thursday appears to suggest this as the AAP loss directly benefited the ruling Congress while the SAD lost the seat despite nearly managing to maintain its vote share of 2017 Assembly polls.
In further indication of AAP’s dwindling graph in Punjab politics, party candidate Rattan Singh polled just 1,900 votes as compared to the 40,911 polled by AAP candidate Amarjit Singh Mehatpur in 2017.
This loss of over 39,000 AAP votes clearly helped Congress candidate Hardev Singh Laddi in defeating the SAD candidate, Naib Singh Kohar, by a margin of 38,802 votes even as the Akali Dal candidate got just 2,913 votes less than what the party had polled in 2017.
Despite being the main Opposition party ahead of SAD in the Punjab Assembly, AAP’s poor performance in the state can be attributed to the lack of a united leadership.
Ever since the Assembly polls, the party has failed to convert its support into votes. It could neither win the civic polls, nor the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll. In fact, the AAP candidate lost his deposit in the byelection for the Gurdaspur seat. Several party leaders, including those in Shahkot, have left AAP to join the SAD or the Congress as the party appears directionless and faction ridden.
To make things worse, AAP’s national leadership too has failed to resolve the differences between senior leaders in the state and lift the morale of the workers.
Blaming en mass shift of AAP vote to the Congress for its defeat in Shahkot, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the Akali Dal retained the party vote share in Shahkot to emerge as the principal opposition party.
In direct contrast, he added, the AAP faced a total collapse in the byelection by barely polling 1.5 per cent of the total vote share. At 1,900, AAP’s vote count is slightly better than that of NOTA and SAD(Amritsar).
“The state of AAP can be measured from the fact that it did not even open its account in many villages. It has ceased to exist as a political entity in Punjab”, added Badal.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the AAP had completely lost the script and was no longer relevant in the country’s political arena.
The CM advised AAP to pack its bags and leave Punjab instead of continuing to shame itself with such shocking electoral defeats.
The Shahkot bypoll was necessitated because of the death of SAD legislator Ajit Singh Kohar on February 4. SAD had fielded his son Naib Singh Kohar from the seat, which was considered a party bastion. The Akali Dal had won the seat five times in a row.