By winning 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly, the Congress Party will form the next Punjab government. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has 20, Shromani Akali Dal (SAD) 15, BJP 3 and Lok Insaaf Party 2 seats. Those who were predicting a hung Assembly only a few days before the election and those who thought AAP would do much better, were wrong.
Sikh grievances against SAD included political interference in religious affairs, control and manipulation of SGPC and Sri Akal Takht Sahib institutions and seeking support of the Sirsa sect, the so called Dera “Sacha Sauda”. Badal administration has been ineffective against the ongoing desecration of Sikh Scriptures. The result was that SAD lost much of its Panthic vote-bank to AAP.
However, appearances can deceive. It is not possible to analyse these results in some simple and meaningful way. The outcome does not suggest any positive voting for the manifesto of any party, because the voters have mainly voted against SAD and put Punjab politics back in the melting pot. Both, the SAD and the Congress have been the traditional political parties in Punjab for decades and taken their turns to lead Punjab towards economic, educational, and environmental decline. During this time the youth of Punjab have become addicted to drugs and the soil of Punjab is now addicted to chemical fertilisers. The whole environment is toxic.
The people of Punjab were certainly running away from the Badals, the duo father-son stranglehold over Punjab administration. AAP, which has no established political network in Punjab, made the mistake of not recognising in good time that Punjab is also the Sikh homeland. They made a start but did not do enough to win over Sikh religious sentiments nor was a prominent Sikh named as a nominee for the Chief Minister’s post. So, most Sikhs in rural (pendu) areas remained doubtful about AAP and just voted against SAD. These negative votes went to the Congress, the only other main traditional party. The signs were already there in 2014 elections when the finance minister Arun Jaitley was defeated by Captain Amrinder Singh in Amritsar and AAP gained a foothold in the Malwa area.
While AAP has yet to learn its lessons about Punjab politics, it is unlikely that most voters expect much from the Congress to bring about any major reforms so badly needed in administration and other socio-economic areas. With a Congress government in Punjab and the central government in BJP hands, large infra-structure improvements are unlikely.
In Uttar Pradesh, the state which matters most in India, the BJP scored a major victory by winning 312 seats of the 403-member UP assembly. The poor and mostly illiterate people voted more for Narindra Modi as their super hero rather than the BJP as a political party. This victory would embolden the extreme right-wing elements and India will keep on moving towards the open Hindutva goal of a “Hindu” nation. Also, BJP’s massive UP victory and the general trend suggests that it is unlikely the Congress would return to power in the next Indian Assembly elections in 2019. There are some rough times for Indian minorities ahead.
Gurmukh Singh OBE