The Congress has been out of power in Punjab for a decade. But on 11 March, the party registered its biggest win in the state in 25 years, paving the path for veteran Captain Amarinder Singh to return as the Chief Minister.
Congress’ win on 77 seats is the party’s second-best performance since 1992, when it won 87 seats – while the BJP and SAD registered single digit wins.
The Congress’ worst performance during this period was the 1997 elections, which saw the SAD forming the government after winning a whopping 75 seats.
How The 2017 Punjab Assembly Polls Was Different
This election saw the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) attempting to make inroads into Punjab. While the party claimed it would win up to 100 seats, it managed to win 18, with its ally, the Lok Insaf Party, bagging two seats.
Before the AAP came into the picture, the contest in Punjab was expected to be between the SAD/BJP and INC.
However, the incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance succumbed to the increasing drug menace during its rule. Ten ministers, including all four from the BJP, were defeated.
The APunjab consists of the highest number of Dalit voters in the country and the AAP had tried to corner the Akalis over Dalit-related issues. Unemployment was another cause of the angst amongst the electorate. According to National Sample Survey Organisation, there are over 55 lakh jobless people in the state.
The alleged law and order problem was highlighted by the Congress and Amarinder Singh campaigned against the lack of order in the state.
Congress candidate Gurjeet Singh Aujla led on the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by over 1.70 lakh votes. A by-election was held along with the assembly polls.
On the Lambi assembly seat, where Amarinder Singh had challenged Badal on his (Badal's) home turf, Badal won by 22,770 votes. But Amarinder Singh won his traditional Patiala Urban seat by over 52,400 votes. The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Akali Dal President, led in Jalalabad over AAP's Bhagwant Singh Mann.
The Road Ahead for Punjab
Amarinder SIngh, who was Chief Minister from 2002 to 2007, turned 75 on Saturday. Singh, who rang in his birthday with a stellar poll victory, said his government’s first priority would be to eradicate drugs from the state.
He was non-committal on having cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as Deputy Chief Minister in the next government. "That will be decided by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. All ministers will be decided by the party leadership."
Outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal accepted defeat and said he will resign on Sunday.
(With inputs from IANS.)