Punjab: AAP completes Rajya Sabha sweep with all seven Punjab seats

By Prabhjot Singh*

Challenges on various fronts, including maintenance of law and order, notwithstanding, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) continues to make rapid strides, both in the State and national politics. After its landslide victory in the last Assembly elections in February this year, it has created history by wresting all seven Rajya Sabha seats that fall under the State jurisdiction. 

It has also become the first party to name its candidate for the Sangrur Lok Sabha bye-election for which June 6 is the last date for filing of nominations.

By taking lead in naming its candidate, the incumbent ruling party may be trying to assuage the hurt feelings of the fans of folk singer-turned politician Sidhu Moosewala following his dastardly assassination on May 29. Subsequently,  the State Government had come under fire for reviewing and publicising the security cover extended to 424 eminent personalities of the State. They included the slain folk singer Sidhu Moosewala. The AAP government desperately needed to bail itself out of the Sidhu Moosewala by not only promising a Special Investigation Team to nab those behind the crime but also rescinding its May 28 security review order to restore status quo effective June 8. The State government was also keeping its fingers crossed to hope for the “ghallughara week” to pass off peacefully.

Continuing from where it left after claiming all five Rajya Sabha seats that fell vacant in April, it has now claimed the remaining two seats that will officially fall vacant early next month. With the unanimous election of Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal and Vikramjit Singh Sawhney, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has now all seven Rajya Sabha seats under its belt. Never before in the reorganised Punjab, any single party had monopoly on all Rajya Sabha seats from the State. Incidentally, it will also be for the first time that none of the remaining major political parties of the State, including Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and Bhartiya Janata Party, will have any representative in the upper House of Parliament. 

For next six years, only AAP nominees will continue to represent Punjab in Rajya Sabha.

History was scripted on Friday when the Returning Officer-cum-Secretary, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Surinder Pal, declared noted environmentalist Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal and entrepreneur- social activist Vikramjit Singh Sawhney elected as Members of Rajya Sabha.  

The party has five other members –  Harbhajan Singh, Raghav Chadha, Sandeep Pathak,

Sanjeev Arora and Ashok Mittal – representing Punjab in the upper house. 

Claiming to acknowledge the hard-work of grassroot level workers, the on Friday nominated its Sangrur  youth chief Gurmail Singh as  its nominee the Lok Sabha bye-election scheduled for June 23.

Singh, a staunch worker of the party, joined AAP in 2013 and has been working on tree plantation in a big way. A village Sarpanch, he has been engaged in afforestation work since 2008.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann, who had represented Sangrur in Lok Sabha in 2014 and  again in 2019 before resigning from the lower House of Parliament after his election to the State Assembly from Dhuri, said  Gurmail Singh was a well-educated and a social activist, who has been working painstakingly for upliftment of the Sangrur constituency for years. AAP had won all the 9 assembly segments in the 2022 Punjab elections. 

Other parties are yet to take a final decision on contesting the Sangrur bye-election. Though various Panthic and Sikh organisations, including various wings of Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Singh Badal and Simranjit Singh Mann, respectively, held a joint meeting recently. To secure the release of those languishing in various jails of the country, they debated  upon the possibility of putting a joint Panthic candidate. 

The candidate could be anyone from those languishing in jails or their families but no final word has been said about it till now. Simranjit Singh Mann, who once represented Sangrur in Lok Sabha, was reportedly promised support by the slain folk singer Sidhu Moosewala.

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has also done some ground work with an intent to contest on its own. Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, who moved to the BJP from Congress to contest the last Assembly elections, toured the Constituency to assess its political atmosphere as all nine assembly segments of this Lok Sabha seat had gone to candidates of AAP in the 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections. Some of the names mentioned for the BJP ticket included those of Sunil Jakhar and Arvind Khanna. Sunil Jakhar had joined BJP after saying good bye to Congress last month.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is reportedly in favour of a joint Panthic candidate while Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring is reportedly inclined to field a party candidate. June 6 is the last date for filing of nomination papers.