Punjab Polls: AAP Consolidates in Malwa After Split in Awaaz-e-Punjab
File photo of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal (PTI)
New Delhi: Cricketer turned politician and former BJP Rajya Sabha MP Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Awaaz-e-Punjab split in less than 100 days after it was formed with founding members Bains brothers, Balwinder and Simarjit walking out of it and, the party formed by them, Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) allying with the Aam Aadmi Party.
In a joint press conference of AAP and Bains brothers, AAP’s Punjab in-Charge Sanjay Singh said, "It has been decided that AAP and Lok Insaaf Party will contest elections in alliance, LIP will contest on five seats."
Popular among the masses in the Ludhiana Lok Sabha Constituency is the Malwa belt, AAP poached the Bains brothers with an unprecedented offer of support to their party.
This is the first time that the AAP will enter into a pre-poll alliance. An AAP source said it was a sign of ‘growing up’, pointing out that Lok Insaaf Party did not have any baggage’.
The Bains brothers have been politically active for over two decades and have won as many as 26 local body elections in Punjab.
In the last Assembly election in 2012, Balwinder Singh Bains contested as an independent candidate from Ludhiana South and polled 49,594 votes defeating SAD candidate Hakam Singh Giaspura by over 32,000 votes.
His younger brother Simarjit Bains contesting as an independent from Atam Nagar polled 51,063 votes and defeated Akali Dal’s Hira Singh Gabria by over 22,000 votes.
However, contesting Lok Sabha elections, Simarjit finished fouth after Congress’s Ravneet Singh Bittu ( 3,20,000) who won the Ludhiana seat, SAD’s Manpreet Singh Ayali (2,50,000), and AAP’s H.S Phoolka (2,60,000). Yet, Simarjeet managed to poll over 2,00000 votes.
AAP hopes its campaign will get a fillip with the Bains brothers joining it.
The brothers have solid support on the ground in 9 Assembly seats in Ludhiana Lok Sabha Constituency.
Durgesh Pathak, AAP’s Punjab in charge said, ‘They are honest people, apart from the seats they will contest, it will help us in the perception battle when they join us. This will have an impact in urban seats also.'
AAP will consolidate its base in Malwa, Pathak believes. In these crucial seats, the coming together of the two will prevent a split of the anti-incumbency vote between AAP and Lok Insaaf Party.
Pathak explains with the vote share between the four parties in the Gill Assembly segment in the Ludhiana Lok Sabha Constituency. "Congress had got 47,000 votes, Akalis 44000, Simarjeet- 38,000 and AAP - 30,000; if AAP and Bains brothers come together, it will take them beyond Congress and Akalis," Pathak said.
Ashish Talwal, Political Advisor to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal says, "Internally, the Congress believed that Ludhiana is its last citadel. But this alliance clearly demonstrates that people of Punjab in general and Ludhiana in particular, have no faith in the future of either Congress or its Captain.”
The second advantage for AAP is Awaaz-e-Punjab, the front floated by Navjot Singh Sidhu early September after he resigned as BJP MP from Rajya Sabha becomes weak.
And though Sidhu was also in talks with AAP for long, the chances of him joining were scuttled, particularly after his bitter public outburst against AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal where he had alleged that the Kejriwal just wanted him to be a 'show piece’ in his party.
After feelers from the Congress, Pargat Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu veered towards the grand old party. This left the Bains brothers with little option given their politics of anti-Congressism in Punjab.
Incidentally, Balwinder Bains, at the press conference in Chandigarh, where the decision to ally with AAP was announced, said that he would still try and persuade Navjot Singh Sidhu and Pargat Singh to join AAP.
Engaged in a do or die battle in Punjab and having put in the hard miles, AAP does not want to leave anything to chance.