Other States

With Sangrur bypoll win, Simranjit Singh Mann makes a comeback

SAD (Amritsar) candidate Simranjit Singh Mann receives the ‘Certificate of Election’ after winning the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypolls, in Sangrur on June 26, 2022.

SAD (Amritsar) candidate Simranjit Singh Mann receives the ‘Certificate of Election’ after winning the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypolls, in Sangrur on June 26, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Punjab’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had a major setback on Sunday as it lost the parliamentary byelection to the Sangrur constituency, so far a party bastion. 

Simranjit Singh Mann, a known radical Sikh leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat by securing 2,53,154 votes. He defeated his nearest rival of the AAP, Gurmail Singh, by 5,822 votes. Mr. Singh secured 2,47,332 votes.

The byelection is being seen as the first major test to ascertain the popularity of the three-month-old AAP government, which went into the Assembly polls earlier this year on the plank of its development work, and stern action against corruption, illegal mining and other “mafias” in the State. Losing Sangrur is being seen as a big blow against the party, especially for Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, as the constituency is his home turf.

The byelection was necessitated as the seat fell vacant after Mr. Mann contested and won from the Dhuri Assembly seat in the Assembly elections. Mr. Mann has won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat twice, in 2014 and in 2019.

The AAP, which won 92 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly in the 2022 election, had swept all nine Assembly seats in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency. For the bypoll campaigning, the AAP had deployed six Cabinet Ministers and several MLAs in a high-power campaign for its candidate.  

During the campaign, which saw a multi-cornered fight between the AAP, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Opposition cornered the AAP government on the deteriorating law and order situation, especially the rise in gangster-related crimes against the backdrop of the killing in broad daylight of Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, known as Sidhu Moosewala, and several other crimes. The CM was targeted for being “remote-controlled” from Delhi by the party supremo, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Party MLAs and leaders have begun whispering over the want of a free hand for the State unit. All of this may have worked against the AAP in the Sangrur bypoll.

After his win, Mr. Simranjit Singh Mann said, “I am grateful to our voters of Sangrur for having elected me as your representative in Parliament. I will work hard to ameliorate the sufferings of our farmers, farm labour, traders and everyone in my constituency.”

Mr. Simranjit Singh Mann, whose Twitter profile says he is striving for Khalistan, the sovereign state for Sikhs, had recently raised the Khalistan issue yet again at a meeting convened by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body responsible for the management of gurdwaras, to support the pro-Khalistan resolution, which he claimed was unanimously passed in the year 1946 by the SGPC. The meeting was convened in Amritsar for deliberating the release of Sikh prisoners.

Mr. Simranjit Singh Mann, a two-time Member of Parliament, founded his party in 1994. He quit from the Indian Police Service in June 1984 as a mark of protest against Operation Bluestar, during which the Army stormed the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, to flush out extremists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In the same year, Mr. Simranjit Singh Mann was arrested on various charges, including in the conspiracy to murder the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and jailed for five years.

The byelection result has also come a major jolt for the SAD, led by the Badal family. Its candidate, Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana, sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was convicted for the assassination of then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, was only able to secure 44,428 votes, less than even the BJP’s candidate.

Kewal Singh Dhillon, candidate for the BJP, which had faced the farmers’ wrath in the backdrop of the three anti-farm laws agitation, polled 66,298 votes. Congress candidate Dalvir Singh secured 79,668 votes and stood third. The candidates of the SAD (Badal), the BJP, and the Congress, all lost their security deposits.

After the loss, SAD (Badal) may see a challenge to Sukhbir Singh Badal’s leadership from within the party. Also, the SAD (Badal) seems to have failed yet again to gain the trust of its core ‘Panthic’ (Sikh) voters, even as it evoked ‘Panthic politics’ in the run-up to the byelection by seeking votes to free Sikh prisoners who are in jail even after the completion of their life sentences.

The AAP Punjab’s chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said the election result was contrary to the party’s expectations, but it accepts the people’s mandate. He said lakhs of people did not cast their votes amid the ongoing paddy sowing season and extreme heat in Sangrur. “We will learn from this election and will work more industriously for the welfare of people. We will come back strongly,” Mr. Kang said.

Sangrur, which voted on June 23, saw a low voter turnout at a little over 45%. In the 2019 parliamentary election, the voter turnout in Sangrur was 72.44%.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 2:08:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/sangrur-lok-sabha-bypoll-2022-sadamritsar-simranjit-singh-mann-result/article65567281.ece