The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerged as the giant killer in Punjab by wresting four of the thirteen Parliamentary seats leaving the SAD-BJP alliance with six and pushing the Congress tally down to only three seats in the Lok Sabha elections, results of which were declared on Friday.
With fledgling party routed across the country, Punjab was its only saving grace. Two of its candidates — comedian Bhagwant Mann and Prof Sadhu Singh — won by huge margins. While Mann won by over 2.10 lakh votes at Sangrur — defeating the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and the Congress sitting MP Vijay Inder Singla — Prof Sadhu won by over a lakh votes, defeating SAD sitting MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan and pushing Congress MLA, Joginder Singh Panjgrain, to the third slot.
Philanthropist and cardiologist Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, the AAP candidate at Patiala, pulled off a huge upset by defeating Congress heavyweight, three-time sitting MP and Union External Affairs Minister Preneet Kaur. At Fatehgarh Sahib, former diplomat Harinder Singh Khalsa defeated the Congress’ Sadhu Singh.
The party’s prominent candidate at Ludhiana, anti-Sikh riots activist and lawyer H S Phoolka, finished second behind the Congress’ Ravneet Bittu. He had been leading in the early trends giving jitters to both the Congress and SAD candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali.
Political observers view the AAP upsurge as a phenomenon that has arisen out of double anti-incumbency (against the SAD-BJP in the state and the Congress at the Centre); historical tendency of the Punjab electorate to vote for a third alternative and the number of non-political AAP candidates.
While the SAD-BJP combine had to battle anti-incumbency, the Congress’ strategy to field party heavyweights backfired. The Congress, which won eight seats in the 2009 LS polls, had fielded former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh in Amritsar; Ambika Soni in Anandpur Sahib; Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sunil Jakhar at Ferozepur but the gamble didn’t pay off.
Capt Amarinder was the only saving grace as he defeated BJP heavyweight Arun Jaitley by over 1 lakh votes. The results put a big question on the leadership of state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa, who himself was humbled by the BJP’s Vinod Khanna, who won by over 1.25 lakh votes at Gurdaspur.