The Tribune – Congress bags clear majority in Panjab

Panjab Vidhan Sabha Total seats: 117
SAD+BJP 18 / Congress 77 / AAP+LIP 22

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 11 March 2017. Winning 77 of the 117 state Assembly seats, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress on Saturday stormed to power in Punjab riding a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling SAD-BJP combine and warding off a spirited challenge by newcomer AAP.

The Aam Aadmi Party and its ally LIP won 22 seats and the SAD-BJP combine was relegated to third spot with 18 seats.

The Congress put up its second best performance in the state. In the 1992 state elections, it had won 87 seats.
In addition, Congress today also won the bypoll to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

The SAD-BJP alliance finished at number three spot in the state polls, behind AAP, which contesting its first Punjab Assembly elections. AAP emerged as the largest opposition party with 20 seats.

However, the number fell way short of Arvind Kejriwal’s claim of winning 100 seats.

The Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD won 15 seats, down from its earlier tally of 56 seats while ally BJP bagged three seats against the 12 it had won in 2012.

A pre-poll ally of AAP, the Lok Insaaf Party, contested five seats and won two of them.

At a packed press conference here, a beaming Amarinder Singh, who was the Congress’ chief ministerial face, declared that tackling drug menace would be a top priority for his government.

The issue of drug abuse, especially by the youth in the state, was repeatedly raked up by the opposition parties to attack the ruling SAD-BJP.

Not known for sparing opponents, Singh who turned 75 today, hit out at the SAD claiming it had brought the state “down to its knees” and mocked Kejriwal saying he was like a “summer storm that had come and gone”.

Singh lost the Lambi seat where he contested against Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal but won from the Patiala assembly seat where he defeated former Army chief General J J Singh.

Improving its tally from 46 in 2012 to 77 now, the Congress also proved wrong the exit polls and predictions which had suggested a close fight between it and AAP.

AAP had pinned great hopes on Punjab polls, a state where it got four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The party was hoping for major gains in the Malwa belt, which has bulk 69 seats, but it did not materialise.

“We accept the people’s mandate. All volunteers worked hard. Our struggle will continue,” Kejriwal tweeted.

Accepting the humbling verdict, five-time Chief Minister and Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal (89) said he would be submitting his resignation to the Governor here tomorrow.

For the Congress, the icing on the cake was victory in the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat bypoll where its candidate G S Aujla defeated nearest rival R S Chhina of BJP by 1,99,189 votes.

Badal said he would ask his son and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal to form a committee to introspect the party’s defeat.

Congress will hold a meeting of its elected MLAs here tomorrow to elect the Congress Legislative Party leader.

How the 3 regions voted

The Congress won 40 seats in Malwa belt while AAP had to stay content with 18. The SAD-BJP won 9 seats in the region.

The Congress won 22 (of 25) seats in Majha belt and 15 (of 23) in the Doaba region.

Immediately after the win, upbeat Congress workers celebrated at Captain Amarinder Singh’s residence here while there were celebrations at his main residence and hometown in Patiala.

In other towns, including Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, Congress workers celebrated, even applying ‘gulal (colour)’ to each other with Holi festival being round-the-corner and distributed ‘ladoos’ and broke into ‘bhangra’ dancing to the beats of traditional ‘dhol’.

Singh thanked the people for the overwhelming support and also expressed gratitude to the Congress’ central leadership and party workers.

“Committed to good governance, tackling drug menace, besides health and education will be priority,” he said, spelling out his priorities.

Among key candidates of the Congress who won included Singh from Patiala, where with a huge margin of 52,407 votes as he defeated his nearest rival AAP candidate Balbir Singh, while former army chief J J Singh came third position by securing 11,677 votes.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had switched over to the Congress recently from BJP, also registered a huge win from his Amritsar-East seat, which was earlier held by his wife Navjot Kaur.

Other prominent Congress candidates who won include Manpreet Singh Badal (Bathinda Urban), former captain of Indian hockey team Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt), O P Soni (Amritsar Central) and Charanjit Singh Channi (Chamkaur Sahib).

However, senior leaders of the Congress who lost included former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who failed to win from her traditional seat Lehra losing to Cabinet Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, and Sunil Jakhar who lost from Abohar to BJP candidate Arun Narang.

Meanwhile, prominent among the Akali candidates who won included Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who retained his traditional Lambi seat defeating Singh by 22,770 votes polling 66,375 votes against the latter’s 43,605 votes.

Deputy Chief Minister and SAD President Sukhbir Badal, Cabinet Ministers Bikram Singh Majithia and Parminder Singh Dhindsa also won their seats–Jalalabad, Majitha and Lehra, respectively.

AAP’s prominent winners included H S Phoolka, who won from Dakha, Kanwar Sandhu from Kharar and Sukhpal Khaira from Bolath while the party’s prominent losers included Bhagwant Mann (Jalalabad), Jarnail Singh (Lambi), Himmat Singh Shergill (Majitha) and Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi (Batala). (PTI)


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