After a long-drawn electoral battle which saw politicians attacking each other on issues from drug abuse to rampant corruption, the final results for the Punjab Assembly Election 2017 are out, and it's a clear majority for the Indian National Congress and its chief ministerial candidate Captain Amarinder Singh.
The party won in 77 out of the 117 seat that went for the poll in Punjab on 4 February and a re-poll in few polling stations on 9 February. The election which had turned into a triangular contest at the beginning of campaigning with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party in the state Assembly election saw the Congress emerging as the largest party receiving 38.5 percent vote share and winning nearly two-third seats.
Several of its key candidates including cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Rana Gurjit Singh, Barindermeet Singh Pahra, Pargat Singh Powar, Dr Raj Kumar, Parminder Singh Pinki, Aman Arora, Aruna Chaudhary, Avtar Singh Junior, Hardial Singh Kamboj as well as Congress chief ministerial candidate Captain Amarinder Singh secured over 25,000 votes.
Though Captain Amarinder couldn't defeat SAD's Parkash Singh Badal in Lambi, he defeated Gurbachan Singh Babehali of SAD by over 52,407 votes from his Patiala seat. The second highest vote seeker from Congress was Navjot Singh Sidhu who won the Amritsar (East) seat by a margin of 42,809 votes.
The state Assembly Election also saw a neck-and-neck fight in 12 seats with a vote margin of less than 2,000. In fact, Congress's Fazilka candidate Davinder Singh Ghubaya beat Surjit Kumar Jyani of Bharatiya Janata Party by a margin of just 265 votes.
A close contest was also witnessed in Batala where SAD's Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal beat Congress' Ashwani Sekhri by 485 votes. Congress' Pritam Singh Kotbhai won the Bhucho Mandi seat by 645 seats beating Jagsir Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party.
The result has once again shown how exit polls can't be trusted since APP which was slated to win the election (both by experts as well as by political experts) came second with 20 seats followed by the SAD-BJP alliance which received 18 seats. Exit polls released on Thursday predicted that the SAD-BJP combine, which has been ruling the state for 10 years, could be struggling to get even into double-digits in the 117-member House due to multiple factors including the anti-incumbency. But the SAD-alliance managed to secure 18 seats.
All major parties were paying special attention to the diaspora — or non-resident Indians (NRIs) — who had arrived in Punjab as the community is believed to have an influence on voting prospects in Punjab.
In the past over one year, not only have NRIs extended support to the three major parties in the fray — the Congress, AAP and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal — but are also believed to have made major financial contributions to the parties.
There were a total of 1,145 candidates in the fray, with all the top-three contenders Congress, SAD-BJP alliance as well as AAP fielding 117 candidates. Also in the fray in Punjab were Communist Party of India — Marxist (CPM), Communist Party of India — Marxist Liberation (CPI-ML), Aapna Punjab Party (APP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Punjab Front, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Punjab United (PU), Akali Dal (AD), Apna Punjab (AP), Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Party (JJJKP), Swabhiman Party (SP) and Janta Dal United (JDU).
There were a lot of political twists and turns right before the Punjab polls too. For example, there was a lot of outrage over Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's remark asking people to vote as if they were voting for Kejriwal. Sisodia's remarks created a political storm as politicians from other parties tried convincing people that this actually meant that Kejriwal was going to be the chief ministerial candidate of AAP for Punjab and that Kejriwal was going to relinquish his role as Delhi chief minister.
One of the most shocking statements came from Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had left the BJP for the Congress a few months back. During a Congress press conference, the flamboyant Sidhu began the presser by claiming, "I'm a born Congressman. My identity, from birth, is that of a Congressman. I owe my existence to Congress."
Perhaps the most important issue in the state was the drug menace. An Aiims study had concluded that there were 837 opioid-dependents per 100,000 people in Punjab or 0.84 percent of the state’s 28 million population. This alone is more than three times as much as the corresponding all-India figure for all types of drug dependents, based on a Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimate of three million drug dependents nationwide, which is 250 per 100,000, or 0.25 percent of the Indian population.
This fact alone shows the extent of the drug abuse problem in Punjab, and the extent to which Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had distorted the facts. Just the number of opioid-dependents in Punjab was estimated to be over three times the number of all types of drugs in the country.
To see how the counting day progressed on Saturday, click here to read our election blog.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Mar 11, 2017 21:45 PM