The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appeared set for a clean sweep of Punjab as its candidates took the lead in 89 seats by noon, with the Congress and Akali Dal trailing far behind while leading in 16 and 7 seats, respectively. The SAD’s former alliance partner BJP was ahead in four seats.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi was trailing behind in both his seats of Bhadaur and Chamkaur Sahib, while five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Akali Dal’s chief ministerial face Sukbir Singh Badal were also behind AAP candidates.
Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) founder and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh was trailing in Patiala, where the AAP candidate Ajit Pal Singh Kohli was leading.
In Amritsar East, where Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Navjot Singh Sidhu and Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia were pitted against each other, Jeevan Jyot Kaur of the AAP was leading.
The state’s voters, who had been openly clamouring for change, appeared to have used their vote to usher it in. The state has traditionally seen power alternate between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine.
It has been decades since any party in the state has secured such a vast majority that the AAP currently seems headed towards. In 1962, the Congress had won 90 seats. In the 2017 elections, the Congress had won 77 seats, the AAP 20, SAD 15 and the BJP three seats.
Celebrations broke out across AAP offices in Punjab as the party appeared all set for a massive majority. AAP leader Raghav Chadha said, “The people of Punjab have voted for the duo of Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann.” Speaking at the party office in Chandigarh, Chadha said people voted for the Kejriwal model of governance. “God has blessed us with a big victory. We have to do a lot for the welfare of the people of Punjab,” he added.
Chadha said that under Mann’s leadership, Punjab will no longer be called Udta Punjab, but as Uthta and Rangeela (emerging and colorful) Punjab. “Bhagwant Mann ki soch pe, pehra deyange thok ke (We will stand firmly by the ideology of Bhagwant Mann).”
“Victory is sweetest when you get it after a defeat,” he said. Despite a massive wave in its favour in the run-up to the 2017 elections, the AAP could eventually win only 20 seats.
This is the first time that Punjab was locked in a multi-cornered contest, with two new entrants —BJP in alliance with Captain Amarinder’s Punjab Lok Congress and SAD Sanyukt, and the farmers’ party of Sanyukt Samaj Morcha. Both the new outfits seemed to be faring quite badly after the initial trends were out.
Big guns like Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, his cousin and Congress Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, and Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu were trailing after the first round, much to the shock of political observers who had forecast a hung Assembly in the state.
SAD patron and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has never lost an election, was trailing by 1,400 votes in Lambi after round one, with AAP’s Gurmeet Singh Khuddian surging ahead.
There was stunned silence in the offices of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) whose president Sukhbir Badal had claimed till late Thursday night that they would be forming the government.
At many places, Congress candidates conceded defeat. The party candidate from Mohali, Balbir Sidhu, left the counting centre after trailing behind the AAP’s Kulwant Singh in two rounds.
Chief minister Channi, who was pitched from Bhadaur to make a dent in the AAP stronghold of Malwa, too was trailing behind AAP candidate Labh Singh Ugoke by 2,195 votes after round one.
Many new faces of the AAP, such as Jeevanjot Kaur in Amritsar East, were inching ahead of seasoned politicians. At Lehragagga, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was at a distant third after the AAP’s Barinder Kumar Goyal.
AAP candidate Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh was leading in Amritsar North. Singh had quit the police service after the high court quashed an SIT headed by him which was probing the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident.
Congress Olympian and minister Pargat Singh was trailing behind the AAP candidate from Jalandhar Cantonment.