Sangrur By-Election: Worrying Signs For AAP As SAD(A)'s Simranjit Singh Mann Leads
The by-election for Sangrur’s Parliamentary Constituency, currently the sole seat of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Lok Sabha, is underway. Worrying signs are emerging for the AAP already, merely a quarter after their landslide victory in the assembly elections, as they trail second against Simranjit Singh Mann from Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar).
Sangrur is one of the thirteen Lok Sabha seats in the state of Punjab. In the 2019 general elections, the Congress scored eight, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got two each, and the AAP retained Sangrur, from where Bhagwant Mann, now the Chief Minister of Punjab, began his political life. Against four in 2014, Sangrur was the only seat retained by the AAP in 2019.
A soft-separatist, Simranjit Singh Mann from the SAD(A) was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, from Tarn Taran, when his party won six of the thirteen seats in the state. In 1990, Mann was denied entry into the Parliament as he insisted on bearing the kirpan. Consequently, he resigned from the seat in 1991. In 1999, when he was elected to the Lok Sabha again, from Sangrur, he stated before the media that he would enter the Parliament without his kirpan, as a mark of respect for his party workers.
A former IPS officer who resigned in 1984 in the wake of the Blue Star operation, Mann fought from Amargarh in the Assembly Elections earlier this year, losing to AAP’s candidate. In 2016, post the Jat agitation for reservation in Haryana, Mann, known for his pro-Khalistan sentiments, passed a resolution demanding a separate state of Jat-land by increasing the size of Punjab and added that Sikhs would not chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ as Sikhs were against the idea of worshipping women in any form.
After the projectile on the building of Punjab Police’s intelligence wing, Mann was again in the news, this time urging the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to back the pro-Khalistan resolution of 1946. Merely days ago, on June 6, on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, supporters of the Mann faction raised pro-Khalistan slogans at the Golden Temple premises.
Mann, in 2012, remarked how raising the demand for Khalistan was not unconstitutional and he was being framed by the then SAD-BJP government in Punjab.
Mann’s political resurgence would be closely observed by other parties and its potential impact on the otherwise dormant Khalistan movement in Punjab.
For AAP, the lower voter turnout in the by-election, around 45-odd per cent against 75 per cent in both 2014 and 2019 could be a cause for concern. Questions will also be raised against the Kejriwal-Mann duo and their ability to score big in the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
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