Chandigarh, May 31 (PTI) Punjab’s main opposition party AAP today pinned its loss in the Shahkot Assembly bypolls on Amarjit Singh Thind, who defected to the SAD just before the by-elections, saying he “betrayed” the party and the electorate of the constituency.

Congress’s Hardev Singh Ladi trounced his nearest rival Naib Singh Kohar of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) with a margin of 38,802 votes.

The performance of the AAP in the bypoll remained dismal as its candidate Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan faced a humiliating defeat, securing just 1,900 votes.

“We started very late (in the bypoll). There were also desertions and the ground reality was not in our favour,” Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Punjab unit co-president Balbir Singh said.

“Our former candidate (during the 2017 Punjab Assembly election) Amarjit Singh Thind left the party and joined the Akali Dal. “He betrayed the party and voters of Shahkot. People were quite angry with him. So, it was the party that had to face the consequences in this bypoll,” he said. Thind had contested on an AAP ticket from Shahkot in the 2017 assembly polls. He had managed to get more than 40,000 votes. However, SAD candidate Ajit Singh Kohar won from the seat. The bypoll was necessitated after the demise of SAD MLA Ajit Singh Kohar in February.

Thind had joined the SAD in March, ahead of the May 28 Shahkot bypoll, the results for which were declared today.

Two other AAP leaders, H S Walia and C D Kamboj, had also joined the SAD before the by-election.

Defending the party’s decision to field a candidate for the Shahkot bypoll, Balbir Singh said, “It (the decision) was 100 per cent correct. It was better than not to fight (the bypoll).” Sangrur MP and senior AAP leader Bhagwant Mann, ahead of the by-election, had reportedly said that the party should not contest the Shahkot bypoll and rather should focus on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The AAP, which was a favourite at one time to win the 2017 Punjab polls, could manage to win just 20 seats in the elections. During the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll in October last year, AAP candidate Major General (Retd) Suresh Khajuria had lost his security deposit, as the party remained at the third spot.

Balbir Singh also accused the ruling Congress of using “wrong” methods such as liquor distribution and money power to influence voters during the bypoll.

“We will continue to fight for the causes of the people. We will also reorganise ourselves and re-strategies ,” he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, after the declaration of the bypoll’s results, advised the AAP, to pack its bags and leave Punjab instead of continuing to shame itself with such shocking electoral defeats.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.