Having lost six Assembly elections and deposit in 2019 Parliamentary polls, analysts in Punjab had written the political epitaph of 77-year-old Simranjit Singh Mann. However, by securing the Sangrur bypoll victory, the once written-off, controversial politician has made a strong comeback to electoral politics.
Mann defeated the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Gurmail Singh from its bastion. The victory came as a complete surprise as AAP had swept the Assembly polls about three months ago.
Seemingly, the tide changed post May 29, the day Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala was murdered. Political analysts feel that the image of Moosewala’s father crying, while hugging Mann, led to a sympathy amongst people for the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar leader.
Opposition’s targeted attacks on the AAP government over deteriorating law and order situation in the state also played a part in the vote against the incumbent government. The victory is being seen as first major electoral setback to the AAP government after its landslide victory in Assembly polls just months ago.
For AAP the defeat is also particularly troubling as Sangrur was being represented in the Lok Sabha by Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann.
Over the past few years, due to the repeated losses, Simranjit Singh Mann’s political career was written off by experts. Over the last two decades, Mann lost one election after the other from the SGPC to the Lok Sabha. Despite these losses the senior leader continued to take part in active politics and raise issues close to the electorate.
Mann’s political journey began soon after he resigned from Indian Police Service in protest against Operation Blue Star and anti-Sikh riots in 1984. During his initial years in politics, the former IPS officer-turned politician was booked under various charges, also leading to arrests and detention.
The first political breakthrough of Mann’s career came in 1989, while he was still lodged in Bhagalpur Jail. He won with 4.6 lakh votes from Khadoor Sahib (Tarn Taran). Interestingly, Mann didn’t enter Parliament as he wanted to attend the proceedings of the House bearing a Kirpan. He later resigned from the seat in protest against the denial.
After a gap of almost a decade, he once again secured a victory in Lok Sabha polls from Sangrur by defeating former Chief Minister and Akali stalwart Surjit Singh Barnala in 1999.
Interestingly, Mann, despite losing security deposit in election after election, kept on placing his bet on Sangrur, trying to groom the constituency as his own.
Eventually, he was able to secure the Sangrur Parliamentary seat in today’s bypoll. Sangrur voters have earlier elected leaders like Teja Singh Swatantar, Simranjit Singh Mann to Bhagwant Mann to the Parliament.