The Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll, held on May 10, has been a high-stakes political battle for the four major political parties in Punjab – the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The election was necessitated after the death of Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary in January this year.
The contest saw 19 candidates in the fray, with the prominent ones being the AAP’s Sushil Rinku, Congress’ Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, BJP’s Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, and SAD’s Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi. The voter turnout was recorded at 54.70%, which was well below the 63.04% recorded in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Out of the 16.21 lakh eligible voters, 8.87 lakh voters exercised their franchise.
The AAP, which is in power in Punjab, is hoping to mark its presence in the Lok Sabha by registering a victory in the bypoll. A win will be a boost for the party, which had faced a drubbing in the Lok Sabha bypoll in Sangrur, just three months after it stormed to power in March 2022. The party fielded former MLA Sushil Rinku, who joined the party after quitting the Congress. The AAP has been promoting its moves to provide free electricity and jobs to the youth, regularize services of contractual employees, take action against corruption, and open Mohalla Clinics, among others.
The Congress, on the other hand, is looking to retain Jalandhar, which is considered to be a traditional stronghold for the party. The Congress has remained undefeated from the seat since 1999. The party nominated Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the wife of late MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary.
The BJP and SAD, on the other hand, are looking to make a comeback after their respective defeats in the assembly elections. The two parties were allies in Punjab before the SAD broke off ties over the now-repealed farm laws in 2020. The BJP fielded Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, who moved to the BJP from the SAD, while the SAD fielded Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, its two-time MLA from Banga. The SAD was backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the election.
The bypoll is also being seen as a test of the one-year performance of the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government. The party came to power in March 2022, after winning a historic mandate in the assembly elections. The government has been focusing on several issues, including free power, employment, health, and education. The results of the Jalandhar bypoll will be crucial for all the major political parties in Punjab and will have a significant impact on the state’s political landscape.