In a setback to AAP, which came to power in Punjab three months ago, the two-time MP and former IPS officer, Simranjit Singh Mann, who has been demanding an independent homeland — called Khalistan — on Sunday won the bypoll in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency.
This seat, once a stronghold of AAP, will now be represented by Mann after over two decades.
As per poll results, Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar (SAD-A) candidate Mann defeated his closest rival Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Gurmail Singh in a neck-and-neck battle by over 6,000 votes, with the former leading in the majority of the rounds, including Muslim-dominated Malerkotla Assembly seat.
Mann, 77, who unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls in February, won the parliamentary elections from Sangrur in 1999. Mann, has been demanding the opening of borders with Pakistan for traders, is toeing the ideology of terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Blue Star that was carried out by the Indian Army in June 1984 to flush out terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
After winning the election, Mann remembered the ‘contribution’ of Bhindranwale towards the ‘Sikh cause’. He gave the credit of his win to those who sacrificed their lives for the ’cause of the Sikhs’.
Mann remembered the ‘contribution’ of actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, accused of being the key conspirator of the Red Fort violence on the Republic Day last year, and slain singer Sidhu Moosewala, who met him days ahead of his killing on May 29.
Just 45.3 per cent voters — 27.1 per cent less than the 2019 elections — cast their franchise to decide the fate of 16 candidates on June 23. The bypoll for Sangrur was necessitated following the resignation of Bhagwant Mann, who won the Assembly election in February from the Dhuri constituency, and became the Chief Minister.
The other key contenders were death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana’s foster sister Kamaldeep Kaur, 44, who was in the fray on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket, BJP’s Kewal Dhillon, 72, and Dalvir Singh Goldy, 40, of the Congress. Both Dhillon and Goldy are former legislators.
Simranjit Mann has declared Rs 8.37 crore assets, including Rs 35.38 lakhs moveable and Rs 8.02 crore immovable. His wife’s assets stand at Rs 4.88 crore.
The bypoll is the first major electoral battle after the AAP’s resounding victory in the state Assembly polls. Bhagwant Mann had won his first election as Sangrur MP in 2014 with a record margin of over 2.10 lakh votes defeating SAD candidate Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. In 2019 Bhagwant Mann was the lone AAP MP in Parliament and he had defeated the then Congress candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon by more than 1.1 lakh votes.
Responding to Mann’s victory, SAD President Sukhbir Badal tweeted, “We bow before the mandate of the people in true democratic spirit.” In the 2022 Assembly elections, AAP recorded a thumping win by claiming 92 of the Assembly’s 117 seats. The ruling Congress won 18, down from 77 in 2017. All nine Vidhan Sabha constituencies coming under the Sangrur parliamentary seat were won by the AAP MLAs with a record mandate.
(With IANS inputs)