The Congress party today made a clean sweep of Punjab’s seven municipal corporations in the state local body polls. The party bagged almost all the bodies for which the results were declared today: Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Abohar, Pathankot, Batala, and Bathinda – the last one also being the most stunning result of the day as it was after 53 years that the city was returning to the Congress fold. While there was no clear winner in Moga, the Congress remained the single largest party. Mohali’s results will be declared only tomorrow.
The spectacular success prompted Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to claim that the results offered a foretaste of what was to come in a year from now when the state assembly polls will be held.
“The drumming that SAD, BJP, and AAP have received in these civic polls is just the tip of the iceberg, and all three are set to be wiped out of Punjab’s political arena, and subsequently from the nation’s political landscape, in the months ahead,” Captain Singh in a Congress statement.
The results from Bathinda alone may come as a shocker to the key opposition parties in the state.
The Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, represented by Harsimrat Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which only recently parted ways with long-time ally BJP following the unrest kicked up among the state’s farmers by the Centre’s three new farm laws.
Congress MLA and state finance minister, Manpreet Singh Badal, represents the Bathinda urban assembly seat. He is also a cousin of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, making the polls a prestige battle this time.
What will sweeten the results for the party is the massive margins by which it won in some of the corporations. For instance, Bathinda, it won 43 of the 50 wards; in Abohar, 49 of the 50. In Kapurthala it left behind SAD, which won three wards, by 40.
The results for the 109 nagar panchayat and municipal councils were still coming in, but in most places, the Congress had a lead.
In the final count till now, the Congress had won 1,199 of the 1,815 wards (municipal councils) and 281 of the 350 municipal corporation seats, with the SAD trailing at 289 and 33, respectively. The BJP had 38 and 20 while the AAP 57 and nine. The remaining went largely to independents and others.
The swing in favour of the Congress, in comparison to the 2015 polls in Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Moga, and Pathankot districts is visible in the fact that from 11 seats back then, its tally has improved to a whopping 149 now.
Chief Minister Singh said, “With these results, all these parties have got a foretaste of things to come in the Assembly elections, due just a year from now.”
“It was a powerful message to these parties to keep out of Punjab, which was not ready to either forgive or forget the deceit and the treachery to which the people of the state had been subjected by them,” he said in the statement.
The party’s Punjab chief, Sunil Jakhar, said people had rejected the “negative politics” of parties like the BJP, SAD, and AAP. “We contested on the development agenda. This victory will embolden our workers to work hard,” Mr Jakhar told reporters.
The emerging scenario may be perceived as a huge setback especially for the BJP since it was seen as an urban voter base party and had been in alliance with the SAD until outraged farmers of the states changed the dynamics over the past few months.
Up to 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats and seven municipal corporations went to the polls on February 14, witnessing 71.39 per cent turnout amid a raging protest spearheaded by farmers of the state against three new central laws.
Yesterday, re-polling was held in a few booths, the results of which will also be announced today. The poll panel has also ordered re-polling today in booth numbers 32 and 33 of the Mohali municipal corporation between 8 am to 4 pm. Therefore, counting for that corporation will be held only tomorrow.
Up to 9,222 candidates were in the fray overall. Of these, independents formed the biggest chunk with 2,832; the Congress has the largest number of contestants among the official parties at 2,037 – its Muktsar candidate won unopposed. The BJP, which is facing fire on the farm laws front, fielded only 1,003. The party is contesting without its Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alliance this time. The SAD itself had only 1,569 candidates.
Of the 2,215 wards in the reckoning, up to 1,480 are of general category, while 610 are in the Scheduled Caste and 125 in Backward Caste segments.
The Punjab State Election Commission yesterday ordered deputy commissioners to appoint micro-observers for vote counting of sensitive and hypersensitive warrds.
Opposition parties have accused the ruling Congress of “capturing booths” and “indulging in violence”, according to a PTI report.
The elections were held amid thousands of farmers from the state, along with many of those from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, camping around Delhi since November in protest against the central laws. Over 150 protesters have died till now due to various reasons, including harsh weather and by suicide.