Punjab polls: AAP rises to power in Mohali district
Real estate baron and former city mayor Kulwant Singh unseats three-time MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu in Mohali; greenhorn Anmol Gagan Mann ensures party’s second consecutive win in Kharar, becomes first female MLA in the district; Congress turncoat Kuljeet Singh Randhawa wraps up contest in AAP’s favour in Dera Bassi, ousting sitting MLA NK Sharma
Delivering an overwhelming drubbing to two sitting MLAs and giving the district its first female legislator, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) astoundingly swept all three seats of Mohali district – Mohali, Dera Bassi and Kharar – as the people’s verdict in the Punjab assembly elections was declared on Thursday.
Real estate baron and former city mayor Kulwant Singh crushed the 15-year reign of three-time Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu in Mohali by polling 77,134 votes – 34,097 ahead of the former Punjab minister’s 43,037.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA NK Sharma, who was hoping for a hat-trick in Dera Bassi, was instead knocked out by Congress turncoat Kuljeet Singh Randhawa. Riding on his extensive political experience, Randhawa handed the two-time MLA a stunning defeat by securing 70,032 votes – 21,721 higher than the latter’s 48,311.
Emerging from nothing in the other two seats in the district, the AAP scored its most-impressive win in Kharar, where it repeated its 2017 success with the biggest margin of 37,885 votes.
Its pick, Anmol Gagan Mann, a political greenhorn, comfortably sailed to victory with 78,273 votes, highest among all 40 candidates in fray from the three seats, while also becoming Mohali’s first female MLA in its 15-year history as a district.
Even with 40,388 votes, her nearest rival, SAD candidate Ranjit Singh Gill, couldn’t come close to the mandate secured by Gagan, a Punjabi singer and a former beauty queen.
A resourceful Kulwant supplemented by strong cadre, made most of the anti-incumbency wave against the three-time Mohali MLA, and the weak campaign put up by the BJP and the SAD.
Disenchantment among rural voters against Congress, coupled with promises of Delhi model of governance and freebies, also spurred AAP’s victory across the three seats.
Reacting to his defeat, Balbir Singh Sidhu said, “I accept the fatwa of the people of Mohali with full respect and am indebted to those who worked day and night for my campaign. I will continue serving the people of Mohali till my last breath.”
NK Sharma attributed his defeat to SAD breaking the alliance with the BJP: “But I accept the voters’ verdict and thank all the people, who supported me.”
For Congress’ Deepinder Singh Dhillon, who finished second ahead of Sharma, the result was unbelievable, but he vouched to bounce back strongly.
Ranjit Singh Gill, who lost again in his second poll outing after 2017, said he accepted the people’s mandate with total humility and he will continue to serve the people of Kharar.
Finally, a big poll win for real estate baron
The richest candidate in Punjab with assets worth ₹250 crore, Kulwant Singh, 60, joined AAP in January this year and soon after managed to get a ticket from Mohali. Owner of Janta Land Promoters Limited, Kulwant Singh, began his political journey when he contested the Mohali municipal committee elections in 1995 and won. He served as the MC senior vice-president from 1995 to 2000 and remained the president till 2005 with Congress’ support. He unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Fatehgarh Sahib, but went on to become Mohali’s first mayor in 2015. However, he lost the 2021 MC elections to the Congress candidate after floating his own Azad Group of independents.
Former beauty queen dons MLA crown
Anmol Gagan Mann, 31, a first-timer, joined the AAP last year. A Punjabi singer, she has won several international folk dance competitions, besides inter-zonal and national folk singing contests, and was also crowned Miss Mohali Punjaban at Miss World Punjaban in 2013.
Ex-truck union chief drives his way into assembly
Kuljeet Singh Randhawa, 60, shifted his loyalties from the Congress to the AAP around two years back and secured a party ticket from Dera Bassi. Having remained the president of the Dera Bassi Truck Union for 13 years, he was also a Zila Parishad chairman under the Congress and president of the Punjab State Panchayat Parishad.
As counting began at 8 am, Kulwant Singh maintained lead completely through the 20 rounds of counting for the Mohali seat. Perceiving his imminent defeat, Balbir Singh Sidhu left the counting centre at the Sports Complex in Sector 78 after the third round, around 10 am, while the Congress’ counting agents also left the centre around 12.30 pm.
On the other hand, supporters of the AAP started converging at the party office in Sector 79 and erupted in celebrations right after the fourth round.
Sidhu had won the Mohali seat three times in a row since 2007, and after the Congress formed the government in 2017, he was also awarded a cabinet berth. Finishing third, BJP’s Sanjeev Vashisht polled 17,020 votes, while SAD-BSP’s Parvinder Singh Sohana could muster only 9,628 votes and Sanyukt Samaj Morcha’s Ravneet Singh Brar trailed at 2,971.
In Kharar, first timer Anmol Gagan Mann from the AAP began to lead from round one itself, much to the surprise of her seasoned rivals. As the trend stayed strong till the final and 23rd round, her supporters broke into a dance at the counting centre at Rattan Professional College, Sector 78.
Hoping to make it big in the town with his slew of promises, Congress’ Vijay Sharma Tinku had to settle for 25,291 votes. BJP’s face Kamaldeep Singh Saini brought in 15,249 votes, while SAD-Amritsar’s candidate Lakhvir Singh was on the fifth spot with 7,198 votes.
In Dera Bassi, it was Congress’ Deepinder Singh Dhillon whose vote tally was initially leading against AAP’s Kuljeet Singh Randhawa. But the tables turned as the counting progressed, putting Randhawa, who switchedover from the Congress two years ago, in the front. Randhawa’s win also decisively marked the end of SAD’s stronghold in Dera Bassi, where the party triumphed consistently for the past three decades.
Outgoing MLA NK Sharma, who suffered a poll upset despite 47,731 votes, had won the elections in 2012 and 2017, beating Congress’ Deepinder Singh Dhillon on both occasions.
BJP’s Sanjiv Khanna, despite his strong campaign, got only the fourth spot with 26,963 votes, while Avtar Singh’s (Sanyukt Samaj Morcha) 1,125 votes were in the fifth position.
33 candidates lose security deposit
Multiple Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were among the 33 candidates, who ended up losing their ₹10,000 security deposit after failing to secure 1/6th of the total votes polled.
Fifteen candidates lost their security deposit in Kharar, the highest in district. They included BJP’s Kamal Deep Singh Saini, who secured only 8.63% votes, Congress’ Vijay Sharma Tinku, who secured only 14.1% votes, and Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Bhupinder Singh Mehton, who polled only 0.16% votes.
Seven candidates, including BJP’s Sanjeev Vashisht and SAD’s Parvinder Singh Sohana, lost the deposit in Mohali.
In Dera Bassi, 11 candidates, including six independents, had to give up the deposit. Among them was BJP’s Sanjeev Khanna who managed only 13.51% votes.
NOTA gets more votes than 55% candidates
As many as 22 of the 40 candidates in fray from the three constituencies in Mohali district got fewer votes than None of The Above (NOTA). For the three seats of Mohali, Kharar and Dera Bassi, 3,339 electors rejected all candidates, irrespective of their party affiliation – constituting 0.62% of the total 5,31,686 votes polled on February 20.
At 1,412, most of these disenchanted voters were from Dera Bassi, where 10 candidates were beaten by NOTA. In Mohali, three candidates trailed behind NOTA that was chosen by 1,192 voters, while 735 Kharar voters also preferred not to pick any candidate, leaving nine of them behind NOTA.
Sole transgender candidate Maniksha Mahant, 26, who contested from the Samaj Adhikar Kalyan Party in Mohali managed to get 344 votes. “I knew it was challenging, but one day I will create a legacy,” she said.
(With inputs from Dar Ovais)