AAP sweeps Punjab, sends many stalwarts packing

The AAP which was being seen till this assembly election as a fledging party in Punjab, has achieved a historic victory not only by winning a whopping 92 out of the total 117 seats, but also by giving a brutal drubbing to all the top rival leaders in the state, reports Rajesh Moudgil

Call it a spill-over of the voters’ pent-up fatigue or anguish against all the traditional political parties and their leaders, the AAP on March 10 made a clean sweep by winning 92 of the total 117 seats literally trouncing all the top leaders of its main rivals – Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Even though almost all the exit polls forecast – after the 71.95% turnout on February 20 voting – the lowest in the past 15 years – showed an upper hand of the AAP and left ample space for the forecasts of hung House, the March 10 results surprised all and sundry to the hilt.

For the record, the AAP won 92 seats, the Congress, 18, the SAD, 3, its ally BSP, 1, and the BJP, two seats while only one independent candidate won. The former two-time Congress CM Capt Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress (PLC), the SAD-(Sanyukt), a splinter group of the SAD, and the farmers’ outfit Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) drew a blank.

Back home, the AAP which had won 20 seats in its debut assembly poll in 2017 registered such a win despite the desertions by about half of its MLAs over “too much of control from Delhi’’ ahead of this election.

However, adding insult to the injuries to the rivals, is how the AAP first-timers defeated all the top leaders and chief ministerial candidates of the rival parties. Only CM face who has come out with flying colours was AAP’s, Bhagwant Mann.

The then Congress’ officiating CM and party’s CM face Charanjit Singh Channi for this election, lost both his seats. Labh Singh Ugoke of AAP, who runs a small mobile repair shop and campaigned on his motorcycle trounced Channi in the Bhadaur seat while AAP’s greenhorn Charanjit Singh beat Channi in Chamkaur Sahib.

The state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu was defeated by AAP’s first-timer Jeevan Jyot Kaur in Amritsar (east) seat. She is a known social worker and known as “pad woman’’ in the city.

Also, in a shocking surprise, the AAP’s Ajit Pal Singh Kohli in his maiden assembly poll, defeated the former two-time Congress CM Capt Amarinder Singh (now the founder of his own Punjab Lok Congress- PLC) in the latter’s home turf Patiala.

The Congress’ deputy CM, O P Soni, also a five-time MLA was defeated by AAP’s first-timer Ajay Gupta in Amritsar central.

The AAP victory which has the potential to significantly heighten the AAP stature across the country is also despite lurid offensives launched by all the rival parties to call AAP national convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal an “outsider attempting to fool Punjabis with his fake claims of Delhi model of good schools and hospitals and better power and water supplies’’.

It may also be recalled that Kejriwal and Punjab AAP also faced serious charges of being soft towards Sikh radicals. And the historic win is also despite AAP’s limited organisational setup on the ground in the state. Yet, the AAP campaign led by Kejriwal with its slogan “Ik Mauka AAP Nu” (give a chance to AAP) resonated across trio regions – Malwa, Doaba, and Majha since the day one this election.

The political scientists including Prof Pramod Kumar, Director, Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh, says that the results show the people of Punjab have vehemently preferred AAP as it had no historical baggage and it gave them a hope of change that the Punjabis lapped up rejecting the false promises of all the others.

 Tougher time for SAD

Hurt and humiliated over its worst-ever electoral show this election apart, the country’s oldest regional party – Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which has won just three out of 117 seats – has tougher times ahead. In the past, the state had seen only bi-polar polls between Congress and SAD.

The AAP win has crushed the citadel of the over 100-year old SAD – which is also the country’s second oldest political party after Congress – trouncing all SAD top leaders that too by its first-timers.

The worst for SAD came in the defeat of its supremo Parkash Singh Badal, 94, who had, though, already moved into the backdrop due to his age. He was beaten by AAP first-timer Gurmeet Singh Khudian, a former local Congress leader, in Lambi.

Even Sukhbir Badal (Sr Badal’s son) who is SAD president and former deputy chief minister was trounced by AAP’s greenhorn Jagdeep Kamboj, in Jalalabad constituency.

Sukhbir’s brother-in-law and the SAD firebrand leader Bikram Singh Majithia was defeated by AAP’s first-timer Jeevan Jyot Kaur in Amritsar (east) seat, a social worker known as “pad woman’’. Majithia was also recently booked in a drug case by Charanjit Singh Channi-led Congress government ahead of polls.

Even SAD’s five-time MLA and Sr Badal’s nephew Manpreet Badal (now in Congress) lost to AAP’s first-timer Jagroop Singh Gill, a former local Congress leader.

The only solace for SAD is that its three candidates – Ganieve, who is Majithia’s wife from Majitha seat, Manpreet Singh Ayali from Dakha, and Dr Sukhwinder Sukhi from Banga, have won. Also, the SAD’s candidates stood at number two position in 46 assembly constituencies. However, Sukhbir Badal is currently sitting MP from Ferozepur and his wife Harsimrat Kaur is MP from Bathinda.

The SAD’s vote share has slid from 25.42% in 2017 state polls to 18% this poll. In 1997, SAD had won 75 seats with a 37.64% vote share but after that, it saw a gradual fall. In 2002, it was 31.08%, in 2007, it was 37.09% and in 2012, it was 34.7%.

The political scientists opine that the thumping win of the AAP has proved the people of Punjab sought a change and a solution to various long overdue issues including unemployment and corruption and an end to sand mining and transport mafias, drug cartels, and paid transfers instead of freebies or just poll promises.

Dalit votes too went for AAP

The election results also show that Dalits – who have been a divided house in the past elections – have vehemently voted for AAP despite there being Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Charanjit Singh Channi, the state’s first Dalit CM leading the Congress, in the fray.

Of the total 117 seats, there are 34 reserved seats in the state.

It is pertinent to note that it was with an eye on Dalit vote bank – one-third (32%) of the total population of three crore – the highest in the country – that all the parties had vied with each other to woo the Dalits.

Challenges awaiting AAP

Meanwhile, the state exchequer’s humungous debt of over Rs 2.5 lakh crore apart, the AAP government has several other daunting challenges awaiting it while most of its legislators are first-timers.

On top of these issues is the drug issue (“chitta’’ – chemical drugs derived from contraband opium). The Channi-led Congress government had recently lodged an FIR against SAD’s firebrand leader Bikram Majithia who is in judicial custody till March 22.

The opposition would seek action for the same. It was the alleged soft-peddling of the former Congress CM Capt Amarinder Singh on the drugs issue that was one of the main reasons behind the revolt against him.

Another issue to confront the AAP government would be the case of the 2015 sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari following which the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had arrested and charge-sheeted Dera Sacha Sauda followers, though the people were still not satisfied.

The Mann-led new government would also have to face the demands of farmers that included complete debt waiver.

The issue of illegal mining of sand mafias has also been one of the major poll planks, particularly that of the Congress ahead of the 2017 state elections when the previous SAD-BJP government was accused of running sand mafia and supplying building material at exorbitant prices. The issue was again at centre stage with the ED booking Channi’s nephew in a case relating to sand mining.

Unemployment is another daunting challenge staring at AAP.

Oath on March 16

After being unanimously elected as AAP legislature leader at a meeting of the party MLAs recently, the CM-designate Bhagwant Mann has said that the swearing-in ceremony would be held on March 16 at 12.30 pm in Khatkar Kalan, the native village of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and not at the Raj Bhawan.


Giant Killers

1 Bhagwant Mann, AAP state president won by Dhuri seat by about 58,000 votes defeating Congress’ Dalvir Singh Goldy

2 Aman Arora, second time AAP MLA from Sunam, won by 75,000 defeating Jaswinder Singh Dhiman of Congress

3 Harpal Cheema, former AAP leader of the opposition, and sitting MLA from Dirba won by 47,000 votes defeating SAD’s Gulzar Singh Moonak

4 Ashwani Sharma, BJP, state president, won by 7,000 votes defeating Congress’ Amit Vij from Pathankot

5 Manpreet Singh Ayali, SAD’s two-time MLA from Dakha won with a margin of 5,000 votes defeating Congress’ Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu

6 Congress’ Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, former minister, won with a margin of 1,200 from Gidderbaha seat, defeating SAD’s Hardeep Singh Dhillon

7 Congress’ Sukhpal Khaira won with a margin of about 8,000 defeating SAD’s senior leader Bibi Jagir Kaur


Biggest losers

1 Charanjit Singh Channi, Congress CM face, lost both his seats – Bhadaur and Chamkaur Sahib by Labh Singh Ugoke (Bhadaur – margin about 37,000 votes) and by Charanjit Singh (Chamkaur Sahib – margin about 7,000 votes)

2 Parkash Singh Badal, SAD supremo, lost his home turf, Lambi to AAP’s Gurmeet Singh Khudian (margin about 11,000)

3 Capt Amarinder Singh, former two-time Congress CM and founder of Punjab Lok Congress, lost his home turf Patiala to AAP’s Ajit Pal Singh Kohli (margin 17,000)

4 Sukhbir Badal, SAD chief, and former deputy CM, lost his home turf Jalalabad to AAP’s Jagdeep Kamboj of AAP (margin 29,000)

5 Navjot Singh Sidhu, Congress president, lost his home turf Amritsar (east) to AAP’s Jeevan Jyot Kaur (margin 6,000)

6 SAD’s firebrand leader Bikram Singh Majithia,  lost to Jeevan Jyot Kaur in Amritsar east (margin 13,000)

7 Sr Badal’s nephew and Congress’ senior leader Manpreet Badal lost to AAP’s Jagroop Singh Gill (margin about 61,000 votes)