Chandigarh (IANS): In a setback to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which came to power in Punjab three months ago, the two-time MP and former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Simranjit Singh Mann, who has been demanding an independent homeland — called Khalistan — on Sunday won the byelection in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency.
This seat, once a stronghold of AAP, will now be represented by Mann after more than two decades.
As per poll results, Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar (SAD-A) candidate Mann defeated his closest rival AAP’s Gurmail Singh in a neck-and-neck battle by over 6,000 votes, with the former leading in the majority of the rounds, including the Muslim-dominated Malerkotla Assembly seat.
Mann, 77, who unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls in February, won the parliamentary elections from Sangrur in 1999.
Mann, who has been demanding the opening of borders with Pakistan for traders, is toeing the ideology of Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Blue Star that was carried out by the Indian Army in June 1984 to flush out militants 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 Moose Wala, 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 votes to decide the fate of 16 candidates on June 23.
The byelection 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.
The byelection 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 210,000 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 110,000 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.
BJP bagged five out of 10 seats in the June 23 byelections to three parliamentary and seven Assembly segments across UP, Punjab, Delhi, Jharkhand, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh. Congress won 2 seats, while Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar (SAD-A), AAP, and Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party each won 1 seat.