In 2012, former Lok Sabha deputy speaker and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Charanjit Singh Atwal survived a major electoral shock, after scrapping through a victory in the Payal Assembly constituency with just 630 votes. Atwal went on to be the speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. His constituency is one of the 34 reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. Punjab has the highest percentage of Scheduled Caste population in all of India — 32 percent.
In the 2012 polls, 12 out of the 34 SC reserved constituencies saw narrow margins of victories. In fact, the narrowest of the victories was witnessed in the reserved constituency of Phillaur, where Avinash Chander of the SAD won by a mere 31 votes!
Apart from these reserved constituencies, 21 other constituencies witnessed a close electoral battle. They were won by less than 4,000 votes which makes for less than three percent of the total votes polled.
Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, a member of the Khairon political family and a minister in the SAD-BJP government, won his Patti seat by a whisker of a margin of 59 votes.
And Kairon was not the only minister who had to face a narrow victory. Janmeja Singh, the PWD minister in the outgoing cabinet won the Maur seat by 1,387 votes, while BJP's Surjit Kumar Jyani, who is the present health minister, defeated Independent candidate Jaswinder Singh aka "Rocky" by a margin of 1,692 votes.
"Rocky", a local don from Fazlika, was later killed by unidentified gunmen in May 2016.
Manoranjan Kalia, the industry minister between 2007 and 2012, who had also served as the Punjab BJP chief, too met with a similar fate. Kalia won his Jalandhar Central constituency by just 1,065 votes.
However, the last Assembly election also saw many opposition candidates winning in a similar fashion.
Take for example, former chief minister and senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Punjab"s only woman chief minister, Bhattal won her fifth consecutive term from Lehra constituency by a margin of 3,355 votes.
Another Congress candidate, Charanjit Singh Channi, fighting for the very first time won by a margin of just 3,659 votes. Channi's victory gains prominence as he later became the leader of the Congress Party in the legislative assembly.
Overall, out of the 33 seats which witnessed narrow victories, 17 were won by SAD-BJP MLAs, while 16 were won by Congress MLAs.
Punjab goes to polls on 4 February and it may turn out to be a cracker of a contest with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party. Anti-incumbency factor may also hurt the Akali Dal-BJP alliance this election. Congress, on the other hand, is vying for a comeback in the state after 2007.
As noted by Congress leader Anand Sharma, the entry of AAP may cut the anti-incumbency vote in Punjab. Cutting the votes polled against the SAD-BJP alliance may help the ruling alliance to regain power while victory margins may be narrow in the forthcoming three-way contests. The coming election will see the AAP trying to make inroads into Punjab's Malwa region, which holds 69 of the 117 seats in the Assembly.
In this Congress versus AAP versus the SAD-BJP fight, Punjab is all set to see some interesting results on 11 March.
Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 18:59 PM