Punjab seems to have ducked the Modi wave in the 2019 general elections with the Congress continuing to hold eight out of 13 Lok Sabha seats. The elections results have made it clear that Capt. Amarinder Singh, state Chief Minister under whose leadership the elections were contested, is the real ‘King’ of Punjab. Amarinder Singh aggressively campaigned to ensure the victory of party candidates.
Performance of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), that contested on 10 seats and could register its victory on two – Bathinda and Ferozepur seats were the worst while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won two out of three seats in Punjab.
The SAD President and former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, union minister, could manage to register their victory on the Ferozepur and Bathinda seats while other party candidates faced disappointment. The BJP candidate from Gurdaspur actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol defeated Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar.
With Bhagwant Mann making a comeback, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), that won four seats in 2014, could retain only the Sangrur seat this time. The AAP grew weaker in 2015 when it’s MPs -Dr Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa- challenged the central leadership following which the two were suspended.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh held a press conference in Chandigarh soon after the results of all 13 Lok Sabha seats were out (not declared by the Election Commission) and said that the performance of ministers would be reviewed in the backdrop of the Lok Sabha results in the state.
“We will review the performance of the ministers, it was not a veiled threat made by the party before the elections,” he claimed.
Thanking the Congress workers, its leaders and all the Punjabis for the party’s victory in the state, Amarinder Singh said he would do everything to live up to the people’s expectations.
Capt. Amarinder Singh said he would soon take up with the Congress high command the issue of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s damaging remarks ahead of polling in Punjab, which he said might have affected the party’s performance in Bathinda. Though he refused to comment directly on the possible impact of Sidhu’s comments on the Congress performance in Punjab, Amarinder said as a minister, Sidhu’s own performance needed to be reviewed.
Amarinder said the Punjab Congress would introspect on why three areas in Bathinda proved to be weak for the party and also why Sunil Jakhar lost to Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur despite his hard work. “I do not understand the people’s preference for a Bollywood star over an experienced leader,” he said, hoping the Indian democracy would evolve more in the coming years.
On Hoshiarpur, the Chief Minister blamed the Congress defeat to votes being shifted to the BSP, which proved a deciding factor in this constituency and affected the margins in some others.
Overall, the people of Punjab had responded to the government’s development and welfare programmes, including farm debt waiver and employment generation, said Amarinder Singh. Cases of sacrilege certainly worked against Badal, he said to a question, adding that Hindutva did not impact the polls in Punjab.
Amarinder rejected the suggestion of detrimental impact on the Congress by party leader Pratap Singh Bajwa, saying the party had won in the areas in which he was said to have some influence.
Capt. Amarinder Singh also trashed a suggestion that the Congress party’s nation-wide performance had raised questions on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, saying he had worked closely with Rahul, whom he found to be a fine leader. Winning and losing was part of the game, and if BJP could rise from two seats when Congress was over 300 seats in Lok Sabha, the Congress to can, and will rise, again, he asserted. The Chief Minister also rejected charges of dynastic politics by the Congress, saying Rahul Gandhi was never thrust on the people but was duly elected.
The CM said while Modi had won the elections, he felt the prime minister should not do anything to destroy India’s secular credentials. He said he did not agree with the brand of nationalism being promoted by BJP, as every citizen of India was a nationalist and the nation’s strength lay in its diversity. He made it clear that giving Modi the credit for Balakot was totally wrong as other leaders before him, including Indira Gandhi in 1971, had taken such strong actions and given due credit to the armed forces.
In response to a question on EVMs, Capt. Amarinder said he had first raised the issue when MS Gill was the Chief Election Commissioner. No developed country was using EVMs, he pointed out, adding that the possibility of the machines being compromised could not be ruled out.