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How the AAP broom felled Punjab's political establishment

Kejriwal's dogged planning pays off as Congress is punished for Amarinder's governance failures, so much so that even hoisting a Dalit as CM did not help
Bhagwant Singh Mann with Arvind Kejriwal
Bhagwant Singh Mann with Arvind Kejriwal
Twitter: @ArvindKejriwal

Arnab Ganguly   |   Published 10.03.22, 03:12 PM

It took the Aam Aadmi Party eight long years to reach the seat of power in Punjab, as the party extended its footprints beyond Delhi after the results of last month’s Assembly polls were declared on Thursday.

That the AAP was on to a spectacular win in the state, where it had won four seats in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014--- Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur and Patiala, the home turf of Capt Amarinder Singh - was evident from the trends early this morning.  The embarrassment, if any, was a collective one for the political establishment in Punjab, which could not be saved even after putting a Dalit on the chief minister’s chair


Till March 10, 2020, power in  Punjab, one of the most volatile states in the country, has alternately changed hands between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal. This would be the first time that a third force has emerged riding on the slogan of "badlaav (change)".


AAP: 91
Cong: 19
Akali Dal+: 4
BJP+: 2
Others 1

“Iss inquilab ke liye Punjab ke logon ko bahut bahut badhai (For this revolution hearty congratulations to the people of Punjab,” tweeted Arvind Kejriwal, while sharing a picture of his with their chief ministerial nominee Bhagwant Singh Mann.

Mann had this to say after his emphatic win: “Youths of Punjab will have jobs now. I will work for the state. We were targeted and insulted (by the Opposition), but now they must respect the three crore people of Punjab.” Mann is likely to take oath at Bhagat Singh's ancestral village Khatkar Kalan, instead of the state capital Chandigarh.

The win in Punjab makes AAP the third party after the BJP and the Congress to have chief ministers in more than one state, a feat that even the indomitable Mamata Banerjee is yet to achieve, despite the Trinamul being around since 1998.

The roar of 2014 had fizzled in 2017, when the party was rife with dissension and the Punjab son-of-the-soil versus outsiders from Delhi debate stung the party hard. In 2022, be it the Malwa, Doab or Majha, the AAP was everywhere winning with a brute majority of 89, in the 117-member House, 12 more than what the Congress had won in 2017

The broom (AAP’s election symbol)’s sweep on Thursday fell many a poll-hardened men, be it from  loyalty of lineage or political royalty. Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister who quit the Congress a few months back, had to bite the dust in his home constituency, the former princely state of Patiala. Punjab’s incumbent and first Dalit chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi lost in both the constituencies, Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur, from where he had contested.

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu faced defeat in Amritsar East, again his home and part of a constituency he had nursed for years as an MP.  Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was trailing in Lambi. Sukhwinder Singh Badal, the former deputy chief minister and his brother-in-law, Bikramjit Singh Majithia, both lost from their respective seats.

The broom came down ruthlessly on the  Congress. Even a well-thought move like making Channi, a Dalit, the chief minister of a state where power has always been with the upper caste Jat Sikhs failed to save the Congress one of the three states where it was ruling on its own.

On the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party’s projected chief minister Bhagwant Singh Mann received 64 per cent of the total votes in his constituency of Dhuri.   

The Congress could fix the blame on  former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who had brought the Congress back to power in Punjab  in 2017, but once in government had renegaded on most of the promises made. An indication that things were not well for the Congress in Punjab came in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the party managed only eight of the 13 seats. 

Amarinder’s public spat with Sidhu, who had the blessings of 10, Janpath,  did not augur well for the party. Yet Sidhu did not get  a free hand. Moreover, the Amarinder Singh administration was charged with inefficiency and corruption. Some of the issues  the new Punjab Congress chief Sidhu wanted to focus on, like the sacrilege issue at Kartarpur Sahib, the sand and drug mafia, were never on the Congress’ agenda, which affected both religious sentiments and livelihoods of those in the party.

In 2017, Amarinder had promised to wipe out  the drug menace from Punjab, but did little on that front.

While the Congress had thrown its weight behind the farmers’ movement, which saw a large participation from agrarian Punjab, the poll outcome shows it had little impact on the voters’ mind. 

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