There are signs of worry for many and signs of hope for some in the Sangrur result.
The results emerging from the Sangrur Lok Sabha by poll has definitely brought a crease of worry on the foreheads of several well-wishers of Punjab. The outcome, where a secessionist like Simranjit Singh Mann wins with a thin margin over the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate in a low turnout election, is definitely a surprise for many.
Hindsight of course is the best vision, but it would also be important to see the lessons to be derived from it.
Fight for Panthic Leadership
Simranjit Singh Mann’s electoral success is not necessarily out of the blue. Polarisation has been a feature of state politics even before the March 2022 Vidhan Sabha election.
In fact, Simranjit Singh Mann had come second in the contest for the Amargarh constituency, falling behind by less than 7,000 votes at the time.
SS Mann has been at the forefront in the campaign led under the guidance of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to release Bandi Singhs which included Khalistani terrorists who have spent their sentences in prisons.
What must also be remembered is that there had been appeals to Mann to withdraw from the contest because Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) (SAD-B) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had jointly fielded Kulwinder Kaur Rajoana, the sister of terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for his part in assassinating former Chief Minister Beant Singh.
SS Mann chose to ignore them, and essentially stood vindicated, as many of his supporters and hard core detractors of the Badal family suggested not to withdraw from the contest.
What is the game going on, one would wonder, given that the Bandhak Rihayi Committee of the SGPC also had the Badals, Paramjit Sarna and others on board alongside SS Mann?
Clues to understanding the result lie in the vote shares. The SAD-B and BSP combine could not even secure 7 per cent of the total polled votes, in contrast to Mann securing more than 38 per cent of the votes.
While the SGPC has been desperately seeking to revive the fortunes of SAD-B, the vacuum created with their collapse in the Panthic leadership has meant people are seeking to try alternatives. This is where SS Mann has emerged as an option that they would like to try, given how the credibility of the Badal family stands at an all-time low.
To his credit, Mr. Mann’s post victory statements are significantly toned down, as he vowed to raise the issue of the poor economic condition of Sangrur, including the condition of farmers under debt, and working with the Punjab government.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and given this situation, it would have to be seen if with time Mann indeed emerges as the Panthic leader, as is the case seemingly right now. What also remains to be seen is the direction in which Mann will perhaps take the Panth henceforth, and whether he will like to avoid the clouds of gloom that dominate the skies.
Signs of Trouble for AAP?
The election results are definitely not the kind AAP would have wanted. The present Chief Minister of Punjab Bhagwant Mann had vacated the seat, and such a result would be seen as a verdict on him and the state government.
It has been a little over three months, and the low turnout for Lok Sabha polls can be read as a sign of major disillusionment with the ‘badlaav’ that AAP ushered in. Optics like Arvind Kejriwal being given the limelight while Bhagwant Mann stood by the rails during a car rally did not go unnoticed, and was portrayed as a belittling of the stature of Punjab. After having secured over 42 per cent of all votes, to dip below 35 per cent is a steep fall.
It is not a disastrous picture necessarily though for the AAP. It can perhaps take solace from the fact that it is now a pole in the politics of Punjab, and retains significant importance for years to come in the state. Given how its vote tally today is nearly double that of the Congress and the SAD-B’s alliance put together.
However, what is now clear is that the SGPC and the Panth at large has clearly rejected the idea of AAP as a party of choice. In the event of any election hereon for the state Vidhan Sabha, the party will fail to repeat the kind of mandate it had managed to achieve in March 2022.
However, if it continues to portray an image of a government remote-controlled by Delhi and having no control whatsoever of the state, the AAP could be in for an even bigger, faster erosion of its vote share in the state.
BJP Replacing Congress and SAD-B?
It is rather interesting to note that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite supposed unpopularity, managed to secure more than 9 per cent of the total votes polled in Sangrur. This was nearly three times higher than the votes that SAD-B alliance polled. Without any significant organisational presence still in the state, the BJP would be inspired and vindicated by its decision to part ways with the SAD-B.
What is also interesting to note is that the Congress has fallen down even further in terms of the vote share. Even though it would be unfair to use a seat level tally and compare it with the overall state numbers, it does not miss any observer’s attention that the party has been on a downward slide since March 2022.
Instead of addressing its problems, the party was busy expelling senior leaders like Sunil Jakhar. Also, frustrated by the lack of interest being shown by the high command in addressing issues of the Punjab unit, we have seen how there has been a migration of several mid-level leaders of the state in recent months towards the BJP, which definitely would add to its ground level capabilities.
There are signs of worry for many and signs of hope for some in the Sangrur result. To mistake it for a flash in the pan would definitely not be the right approach; it definitely shows that there is a need to ensure that significant attention is paid at the senior most levels of the powers that be to prevent anarchy from becoming the norm in Punjab, and that the control is tightened significantly.
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