Chandigarh, May 28, 2019-
After the AAP’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, state unit President Bhagwant Mann, who won from Sangrur, is engaged in efforts to revive his party that is now seen as a sinking ship.
Formerly a popular comedian-actor, Mann has extended a hand of friendship to defected prominent leaders Sukhpal Singh Khaira and journalist-turned-politician Kanwar Sandhu.
In February 2017, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 20 of Punjab’s 117 Assembly seats and became the main opposition in the Congress-ruled Punjab, relegating the Akali Dal to the third place in the Assembly.
Now, it has won only one of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. In its maiden foray in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle, it won four seats in the state.
Barring Mann, who was elected from Sangrur in 2014 too, all other candidates of the party forfeited their security deposits. Its vote share in the state nosedived from 24.4 to 7.4 per cent.
The reason: most of its prominent leaders had been either suspended for anti-party activities or have joined other political parties, mainly the Congress.
In an interview to a news channel, Mann admitted that he wanted to take along both Khaira and Sandhu.
Khaira, along with six AAP legislators, led the rebellion against AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after being removed as Leader of Opposition in the Assembly in July 2018.
Admitting that Mann telephoned him two days back, two-time legislator Khaira, now leading the six-party Punjab Democratic Alliance, said his first condition is that the AAP must promise it won’t have any alliance with the Congress in the Delhi Assembly elections.
But he ruled out the possibility of rejoining AAP.
He said it was just a courtesy call by Mann who was seeking his help to raise issues relating to the state in Parliament.
Khaira, who launched Punjab Ekta Party after leaving the AAP, said he would welcomed the AAP in the Punjab Democratic Alliance to contest future elections.
The Punjab Democratic Alliance polled 10.6 per cent votes against AAP’s 7.4 per cent.
Congratulating Mann for his victory, Sandhu, who still believes in AAP’s unity, wrote on his Twitter handle that the overall situation for the AAP in the state was worrisome as the party’s vote percentage had nose-dived.
He said there was a need for the AAP to introspect how and why it lost the 2017 Assembly elections, the various by-elections and its inability to build a structure at the grassroots.
“Need to have a vibrant structure within Punjab to take crucial decisions, plan strategy and formulate vision for future,” first-time legislator Sandhu added.
Punjab is heading for by-election at least on two seats following the resignation of Akali Dal MLA Sukhbir Singh Badal from Jalalabad and BJP’s Som Prakash from Phagwara. Both got elected to the Lok Sabha.
Also, four suspended AAP legislators, including Khaira, resigned from the membership of the state Assembly and disqualification petition against another party legislator is pending before the Speaker.
Of the 20 AAP legislators, seven have defected till date. (Agency)