Updated: March 12, 2022 12:41:58 pm
The Aam Aadmi Party has swept Punjab, garnering over 90 seats, the best-ever performance by any party in the state. Here are the five reasons why it conquered the two traditional parties of Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal that have ruled the state for the last seven decades
1. The clamour for change
In Punjab, power has traditionally alternated between the SAD, which had a 24-year-long partnership with the BJP from 1997 to 2021, and Congress, with the former winning in 2007 and 2012.
The Captain Amarinder Singh-led government in the state was accused of being in cahoots with the Akalis due to its soft-pedalling on charges against the Badals, leading to the perception on the ground that the Congress and Akalis were two sides of the same coin. This time, people across Punjab, Malwa in particular, voted for a change. The message that reverberated across the state was that the voters have seen the two big parties rule for 70 years, but they haven’t delivered results. So it is time to give a chance to another party. The AAP slogan “Is baar na khaawaange dhokha, Bhagwant Maan te Kejriwal nu dewaange mauka (We won’t get fooled this time, will give a chance to Bhagwant Mann and Kejriwal)” resonated across the state as people were fed up with the status quo and falling income levels.
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2. The Delhi Model
AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal struck an immediate chord with voters because of the four pillars of his Delhi model of governance – quality government education, health, power and water at cheap rates. A state that had been coughing up inordinately high rates for power, and where health and education are mostly privatised, immediately warmed up to his model.
3. Youth and women
AAP got a groundswell of support from the youth and women voters who wanted to give a new party and the ‘aam aadmi’ a chance. Kejriwal’s promise of rooting out corruption, endemic in the state, resonated with youngsters keen to “change the system” and ring in a new regime that would give a fillip to education and employment. Similarly, AAP’s promise of depositing a sum of Rs 1,000 per month into the accounts of women in the state did endear him to this section even though many admitted that such populist promises are usually made to be broken. But the fact that he wooed women as a separate vote bank and not just as an extension of their fathers or husbands struck a chord in the highly patriarchal state.
4. Bhagwant Mann as the CM face
The announcement of Bhagwant Mann as the chief ministerial candidate helped the party get rid of the outsider tag that its rivals had given it. Mann, the popular comedian who had made a place in the heart of many Punjabis with his political and social satire, is unlike any traditional politician with a squeaky clean, son-of-the-soil image. And he made sure he rubbed it in when he recounted how he lived in a rented house and how his net worth had been falling with every successive election.
5. The farm agitation and Malwa
The more than a year-long farm agitation that forced the central government to repeal the three contentious farm laws prepared the ground for a change of government by breaking the ‘dharra’ system (faction) that determined the poll outcomes in the past.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ugrahan), the largest union of the state with a wide following in Malwa region with 69 assembly seats, said it gave rise to a questioning voter, who started asking leaders why they couldn’t see beyond lanes and drains even 70 years after independence. AAP appeared to have an answer to these questions.
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