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On Punjab Elections

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Punjabi Suba, as a Punjabi speaking state came into being in November, 1966 after the long struggle by Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabadhak Committee. In this Punjabi speaking state, two political forces got prominence on the electoral space, Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress. Though left have some ground in the state and some other political forces also emerged from time to time but none of these political forces could pose a challenge to these two established political forces. Akali Dal as a one of the oldest sectarian regional political party owns glorious history. It was established on December 14, 1920 with a motive to make Gurdwaras free from the malpractices of Mahantas. For this they had to struggle a lot against the British Govt.. As a result of their great struggle, Gurdwaras Act 1925 was legislated. Thus Akali Dal succeeded in establishing democratic control in Gurdwaras and challenged the great power of the time. Owning a status of sectarian party, it withstood evils of the time. Akalis also participated in the demonstration being held for boycotting Simon Commission and laid their lives for the cause. Similarly, Congress has its history of holding a long freedom struggle against the British rule.

After Independence, Akali Dal raised different issues such as demand of Punjabi speaking state, SYL water dispute, issue of separate Sikh identity and many more, partially to secure Punjab’s interests and partially to reap their own political benefits. It resulted in centre- state conflict, terrorism of 1984, attack on Harmandir Sahib by centre, great loss of Punjab at the hands of centre- state political forces for their political interests. Since then Shiromni Akali Dal as a sectarian regional party started targeting Jatt Sikh community, the largest community in Punjab as their main support on panthak agenda and congress had their strong support base from Scheduled castes, backward castes and urbanized population. By the time Akali Dal got to know that they couldn’t attract voters only on Panthak turf. So they shifted their focus from panthic agenda to development agenda. There were mega infrastructure projects, heritage makeover, surplus power and social welfare schemes such as atta dal scheme, Shagun scheme for the girls of Scheduled castes on their marriage etc. Moreover in the last ten years, Shiromni Akali Dal broadened its social base by including 11 urban hindu candidates and 21 scheduled caste candidates in the party. After recovering from militancy, Punjab’s people have become aware enough that they could see through. Great loss during the militancy has made them to see things behind the curtain. They could no more be fooled by any panthak agenda (Sikh Separate identity) or fake development agenda.

There have been growing drug menace, corruption, repeated crop failures, farmers’ indebtness and suicides. There were pesticides scam and involvement of agriculture minister Tota Singh in it, library book scam and involvement of the education minister of the time in this and involvement of majithia in drug scam. There were land encroachment in the name of development, patronage of countless mafias, misuse of police, arrogance of power, snubbing the media and all the more promotion of political leaders’ own business interests. 80% of Punjab’s population is beneficiary of atta dal scheme, known to be the richest state of India. This led to the emergence of Aam Admi Party as a strong political force in Punjab, when it was loosing its space all over the India. In 2014, Lok Sabha Elections, Aam Admi Party won 4 seats here in Punjab. Dr. Dharamveer Gandhi, Member Parliament; Succha Singh Chhotepur, Party Convenor; Harinder Singh Khalsa, Member Parliament; Dr. Daljit Singh, Disciplinary Committee Chief, who provided a strong base to Aam Aadmi Party in 2014 election, are men of stature. These party members were either expelled from party by putting false allegation on them or they left the party because of Kejriwal’s autocratic and undemocratic attitude. Party lost its base but party member Bhagwant Mann put all his efforts. He raised all the above mentioned issues of Punjab in his rallies. He addressed 240 rallies in all corners of punjab. There used to be great crowd in all his rallies. Party successfully became people’s voice during campaigning. It got hype on social media. It emerged to be great challenge to both traditional political parties. Despite the corruption charges on Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak, the party incharges, Party had its say in Malwa region. But Kejriwal’s joining hands with Sikh extremists created fear in the minds of Punjabi people.

Meanwhile there was bomb blast in Maur Mandi. It revived the dark memory of black days. Because People of Punjab want an alternative promising structural change and emancipator changes to their lives reeling under the arrogance of power. It led to shrinking their support base in all over majha region, a terrorist affected area and most of the malwa region.

On the other side Captain Amrinder Singh, leader of Congress Party, emerged to be a good leader. He broke his royal image, met to the common people during campaigning, avoided aggression in his speeches and took a stern stand on SYL water dispute. Because Captain Amrinder Singh’s strong leadership, Congress won 22 seats in majha region out of 25 and 40 out of 69 in Malwa region. Aam Admi Party though couldn’t win , have to be satisfied becoming main opposition to the ruling party but it successfully put a dent on this traditional electoral politics. It played a very positive role in making this election momentous.

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