The byelection to the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat on May 10 will be a test of the popularity and performance record of the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab. The party is hoping to taste success after its drubbing in the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll in June last year, just months after it stormed to power by securing 92 of the 117 seats in the Assembly poll.
However, the ruling party faces a formidable opponent — the Congress, which has won the seat 14 of the 18 times it has gone to the polls. The Opposition party has also not lost the seat since 1999.
The bypoll was necessitated owing to the death of Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary, 76, following a cardiac arrest during the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jalandhar’s Phillaur in January. The party has declared his wife, Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, as its candidate.
Ms. Chaudhary filed her nomination papers on Thursday and was accompanied by State Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partap Singh Bajwa, former Chief Ministers Charanjit Singh Channi and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and former MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu.
AAP has been attempting to win over voters by highlighting the government’s efforts to weed out corruption, illegal mining, and ‘mafias’ from the State. The party is also counting among its achievements the fulfilment of poll promises such as free electricity up to 300 units to every household, opening ‘Aam Aadmi Clinics’ and starting schools of eminence to improve education. It has also claimed to have undertaken unprecedented work in comparison with the previous State governments led by the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance.
The ruling party had announced former Congress MLA Sushil Kumar Rinku as its candidate on April 6, a day after he joined it in the presence of AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Mr. Rinku was the Congress MLA from Jalandhar West and had lost to AAP’s Sheetal Angural in the 2022 Assembly poll. The Congress had expelled him on April 5 for allegedly indulging in “anti-party activities”.
The Opposition parties are looking to target AAP over its alleged misrule, breakdown of law and order, rising drug menace, illegal mining, worsening economy, and failure to fulfil its key poll promise of providing a monthly assistance of ₹1,000 to women above 18 years. They have also accused the Chief Minister of being ‘remote-controlled’ by the party leadership in Delhi.
The SAD has fielded Dr. Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, a two-time MLA from the Banga constituency in Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar district, and will be contesting the election with the support of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The BJP has named Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, who quit the Akali Dal to join the party recently, as its candidate for the bypoll.
The last day for filing nomination papers is April 20. Counting of votes will take place on May 13.