Chandigarh, March 11 (IANS) SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal’s slogan on ruling Punjab for 25 years vanished in thin air after only a decade in power in the border state as the Congress swept the assembly elections with almost two thirds majority on Saturday.
The Congress — out of power for a decade in the border state — sailed into the power corridors in Punjab with 77 seats in the 117-member assembly.
Sukhbir, who emerged as Punjab’s most powerful man in the past decade, took complete control of the government led by his Chief Minister father Parkash Singh Badal, as well as the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
It was Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir who took all important policy decisions and who coined the slogan ‘Raj karaangey puchhees (25) saal’ (we will rule for 25 years).
Sukhbir clearly was inspired by the Left Front rule in West Bengal. In fact, Sukhbir even sent a group of Akali leaders to West Bengal once to study how the communists were able to govern the eastern state for so long and repeatedly win state elections.
In the 2012 Punjab assembly elections, when not many were giving a chance to the Akali Dal to retain power, Sukhbir pulled off an unprecedented victory and was hailed as the “master strategist” of the Akali Dal.
The Akali Dal, which came to power in 2007 after defeating the Congress, created political history in Punjab in the 2012 assembly polls by retaining power for the second consecutive term.
With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging on the Punjab political scene in the 2014 general elections and winning four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab despite a wave in favour of the SAD ally Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, the Akali Dal started losing ground to the new entrant.
The biggest setback for the Akalis was in the state’s Malwa belt, which accounts for 69 assembly seats, where people tilted towards the AAP. The belt was earlier politically dominated by the Akalis.
However, the Akali Dal leadership remained dismissive of AAP inroads into Punjab and the silent recovery made by the opposition Congress led by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
While the Congress bagged 38.5 per cent of the polled votes, the Akalis got 25.2 per cent, the AAP got 23.7 per cent and the BJP a mere 5.4 per cent. The combined tally of the Akali Dal and BJP came to 30.6 per cent.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])