CHANDIGARH: During the poll campaign, Captain Amarinder Singh was projected as ‘Punjab Da Captain’. He turned out to be one on Saturday, by silencing detractors. Under his leadership, the Congress returned to power in Punjab after 10 years. The party secured 77 seats out of 117, 18 more than the simple majority.
Malwa region had always been the party’s stronghold, but this time, Congress exceeded expectations in Majha and Doaba by getting 38.5 per cent of votes.
The vote share is less than 2012, when the Congress got 40.90 per cent. It was only a few days before the elections, when Congress VP Rahul Gandhi officially announced Amarinder as the chief ministerial candidate.
The double incumbency of the SAD-BJP Government had left the common man disenchanted and Amarinder exploited the sentiment by promising to punish ‘misdeeds’ of the previous regime.
On critical issues like SYL canal, drugs, unemployment, law and order and deteriorating fiscal situation, he has promised swift action. He reiterated his resolve to act against those selling drugs within four weeks and implement the nine points in the agenda mentioned in the manifesto.
Under the direction of poll strategist Prasant Kishore, Amarinder held a series of meetings with the people, especially the youth in programmes called ‘Coffee with Captain’ and ‘Halke Vich Captain’. These interactive sessions, observers say, helped him gain the edge.
Having strong backing from the party’s central leadership, he succeeded, even taking his detractors along with him, unlike in 2007 and 2012 when dissensions proved difficult to handle.
The Aam Aadmi Party got just 20 seats, as it failed to understand the complexity of state politics because of inexperience. They overplayed the Sikh card instead of addressing the concerns of urban areas as they mainly focused on Malwa. They finished a poor third in almost all constituencies of Majha and and Doaba regions. It got 23.7 per cent votes and it’s ally Lok Insaaf Party, which won two seats, got 1.2 per cent.
Taking a dig at AAP, Amarinder said Arvind Kejriwal is like a summer storm which came and went. “It is a gift from the people of Punjab on my 75th birthday. The voters voted for change. My priority will be to take up governance issues that do not have monetary implications.”
Asked whether Navjot Singh Sidhu will be the Deputy Chief Minister, Amarinder said, “This will be decided by Rahul Gandhi.”
He admitted that he was expecting around 65 seats, but with these numbers, he said people had reposed faith in the Congress.
With the ruling party facing a humiliating defeat, CM Parkash Singh Badal said he would submit resignation to the Governor on Sunday.
“SAD will discuss the reasons for the defeat in the assembly elections,” he said. In the 2012 elections, SAD had won 56 seats and its ally BJP had claimed 12. This is one of the worst electoral defeats for SAD, as it got only 15 seats. Three went to its alliance partner BJP. SAD’s vote share declined to 25.2 per cent from 34.75 in 2012. BJP’s came down to 5.4 per cent from 7.13.
Express takes a look at some of the keenly fought constituencies in Punjab...
Lambi: Parkash Singh Badal
Head to head against Amarinder Singh, this had all the makings of going down to the proverbial wire. However, while deep-rooted issues meant that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) would not retain power, Badal’s influence showed when he won from his constituency of Lambi. However, that might be the last major political act of the patriarch who will be 90 in December.
Jalalabad: Sukhbir Singh Badal
SAD may have lost but some of it’s senior most members, including Sukhbir, the president of the party, garnered face-saving victories. This was a special one too, besting AAP’s Bhagwant Mann, one of their most prominent names. The margin, more than 18,000 votes, was one of the biggest by a SAD winner.
Patiala: Amarinder Singh
It so nearly didn’t go right for him as he lost to the sitting CM but did keep his date with destiny thanks to a win over AAP’s Dr Balbir Singh by more than 50,000 votes in Patiala. He does love a fight, as evidenced by his win over the BJP’s Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.