SANGRUR/FARIDKOT: The interest in the AAP seems to be fizzling out in Punjab. Locals remember that till about two years ago, the party flags were a common sight. But as one travels across Malwa region, the party’s intense campaign is only visible in Sangrur from where AAP MP Bhagwant Mann is contesting.
In areas such as Faridkot, Patiala or Fatehgarh Sahib, there is hardly any buzz surrounding the AAP candidates. Even the campaign intensity is not visible in these three seats.
Voters stated they thought that the AAP would bring in a change in the government running process, but their hopes were short-lived after infighting led to the suspension of two sitting MPs – Dharamvir Gandhi (Patiala) and Harinder Singh Khalsa (Fatehgarh Sahib) — for ‘anti-party activities’.
AAP’s former Punjab chief Succha Singh Chhotepur, who was instrumental behind the party’s rise in the state, was also asked to leave over differences with the party brass.
Gandhi is now contesting from Patiala under a six-party coalition ‘Punjab Democratic Alliance’, while Khalsa has joined the BJP. Gandhi had defeated Preneet Kaur, a minister in the UPA government and wife of Amarinder Singh.
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“He is a good man (Gandhi) and has done work in the constituency but this time I will vote for maharani (Preneet). What is the use of voting for him as he doesn’t have a backing and can’t carry much development work in our area? Having a Congress MP is beneficial as there is a Congress government here,” said Prabhjot Kaur, a retired professor in Patiala.
However, despite all the infighting and ousters, Sangrur still seems to be a bright spot for the AAP. Bhagwant Mann, who is also the party state chief, may pull through. Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh is facing rebel MLA Baldev Singh.
Mann enjoys a good rapport in his constituency, especially in rural areas. The AAP has also put its weight behind him as Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is extensively campaigning for him. Mann has been using his skill of singing, poetry, and comedy to reach out to the voters.
“He was the first MP who told the people about the MPLAD scheme and that MPs get so much money for the welfare of people. He has sent cancer patients to Delhi for treatment and took up several matters related to Sikhs in Parliament,” said Sandeep Singh, who works in a private firm.
AAP functionaries admit the problem but assert that they are in for a long struggle. “We are ready to struggle to regain the trust of the people. It will take few years but we won’t give up,” said Navtej Singh, an AAP functionary in Sangrur.