New Delhi: Sukhbir Badal was confident of victory. As Punjab’s electoral fate got sealed on Saturday, Badal’s prayers for those 72 seats out of 117 fell on deaf ears. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which was hoping to stake claim for power for a third term in a row, is staring at a massive defeat.
It is the Congress which has wrested control in the state with a massive 38.3% vote share, according to the Election Commission of India.
But all is not lost for Sukhbir Badal. While his father, Prakash Singh Badal is on the brink of resigning from office, Badal junior who has always enjoyed the Akalis’ and the peoples’ loyalty, has won in the Jalalabad constituency with 64,292 votes, over Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Bhagwant Mann who got 46,664 votes.
Badal’s decision making capacity saw the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) join hands with the BJP, instead of the Congress during the 2012 polls. Till date, the SAD has thrived under his leadership.
Today, Badal’s attempts at keeping the SAD-BJP alliance afloat, with palpable threat from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have failed—especially with the anti-incumbency wave gathering momentum in the state.
It is, however, the Congress which has cut into AAP’s votes and cashed in on the anti-incumbency wave. Although the AAP had seemed like a worthy opponent, having won four seats in the state in the general elections of 2014, Congress’s Captain Amarinder Singh decimated all competition in the state, sweeping Patiala with 72,586 votes.
AAP’s victory of four seats in Punjab in the parliamentary elections of 2014, spelt the first sign of trouble for Badal and the Akalis. This change in political game, compounded by a growing discontent against Sukhbir Badal in the state, has altered the political narrative in Punjab.
And this time round, with the balance not having tipped in Sukhbir Badal’s favour, his angularities which had remained a thorn in the public’s flesh, will become even more jarring.
Badal junior had come under sharp criticism for a steady deterioration of the state government’s coffers. Punjab’s dichotomous situation—new and increased infrastructure projects, roads, bridges, a facelift to the Golden Temple complex on one hand and incidents of increased drug abuse in the state and an upward spiral in the crime rate have been haunting Sukhbir Badal.
Even as Sukhbir Badal casually brushes these allegations under the carpet, the state and its people have not forgotten the incident from April 2015, when a teenage girl was killed and her mother seriously injured, after they were allegedly molested and thrown from a moving bus near Gil village, in Punjab’s Moga district. The bus was operated by Orbit aviation—a company part owned by Sukhbir Badal.
Badal is drawing strength from the smaller victories. Prior to Saturday’s results, he tweeted: “The victory in Delhi Gurdwara elections for our party has been a stamp of people’s trust on our approach and policies. I am sure the same results will be repeated in Punjab."
With the Congress having upstaged both the SAD-BJP alliance and AAP, it now remains to be seen whether Sukhbir Badal can resurrect himself and the party’s image for the next assembly elections and the upcoming general elections of 2019.