The Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab has scripted history by bagging 68 of the 117 seats in the State Assembly, elections to which were held on January 30.
This is the first time since the reorganisation of the State in 1966 that an incumbent has overcome the anti-incumbency factor to retain power.
According to the final tally released by the State's Chief Electoral Officer's secretariat, the Akali Dal won 56 seats and the alliance partner BJP 12, compared to 48 and 19 respectively in the 2007 polls. Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal retained the Jalalabad constituency in Ferozepur district by a margin of 50269 votes, the highest in the current elections.
Touted as a favourite in various opinion surveys and exit polls, the Congress managed to get just two more than its 2007 tally and was restricted to 46 seats. Interestingly, candidates of the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) along with other constituents of the Sanjha Morcha not only lost all the seats they contested but did not even make it as runners-up.
Initial estimates indicate that despite the sliding vote percentages, both the ruling alliance as well as the Congress increased their tallies over the 2007 polls. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance conceded three percentage points while the Congress lost one. The BSP retained its four per cent share, while the Sanjha Morcha, rebels and independents accounted for 14 per cent of the votes, which was four points more than they got in the previous polls.
The PPP, floated by the former Finance Minister and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's estranged nephew, Manpreet Singh Badal, was initially expected to eat into the Akali vote bank. However, an initial analysis indicates that the party, along with the rebel candidates and the Bahujan Samaj Party, ended up further dividing the anti-ruling alliance vote to ensure the defeat of the Congress, which banked heavily on the anti-incumbency factor.
Personally, Manpreet Singh Badal, who had hogged media spotlight for organising rallies with record public turnout in the run-up to the elections, finished third at both Gidderbaha and Maur constituencies. He had represented Gidderbaha four times since 1995 as an Akali legislator. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal retained the Lambi seat, overwhelming his cousin Mahesh Inder Singh Badal of the Congress by a margin of 24,739 votes, while his younger brother Gurdas Singh Badal on a PPP ticket finished third, polling a meagre 5352 votes.
State Congress president Amarinder Singh retained the “royal family seat” at Patiala by 42,318 votes. However, his son, Raninder Singh, who unsuccessfully contested Bathinda parliamentary elections two years ago, lost from the neighbouring Samana constituency by 6930 votes.
The intensity of the contest in the State, which witnessed an unprecedented 79 per cent polling, could be gauged from the fact that unlike the previous occasions, only three independents were successful — two rebels from the Akali Dal and one from the Congress.
In the Majha region comprising the border districts of Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Tarn Taran, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance won 15 out of the 25 seats.
Keywords: Punjab Assembly elections