"Don't do as badly as in the 2002 elections (three seats). Just reach double figures," was what the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) wanted from its alliance partner, the BJP. The latter did its job by winning 12.
The BJP might have lost seven seats compared to the 2007 elections, when
its tally was 19 out of 23 (the party's vote share also dropped from 8.28% to 7.13%), but it is set to play a key role in government formation.
"The credit goes to our workers and voters. Our new faces also made a difference," said BJP state president Ashwani Sharma, himself a first-timer, who won the Pathankot seat. He had got the ticket at the expense of sitting MLA and former cabinet minister Master Mohan Lal.
Surveys conducted as per the directions of BJP president Nitin Gadkari also proved useful for the party, even though there was an aberration in the form of sitting Rajpura MLA Raj Khurana, who got the ticket despite corruption charges and went on to lose.
Although BJP stalwarts such as Tikshan Sud, Satpal Gosain and Arunesh Shakir suffered defeat, but first-timers Navjot Kaur Sidhu, Seema Kumari and Ashwani Sharma won. The party won all six seats it contested in Jalandhar and Pathankot districts.
District status to Pathankot and Fazilka worked wonders as the party won Pathankot, Sujanpur and Bhoa (reserved) seats, besides retaining the Fazilka seat, from where cabinet minister Surjit Jiyani won.
In Jalandhar, the BJP retained its traders' vote bank by winning Jalandhar (Central), Jalandhar (North) and Jalandhar (West). The victorious candidates were ex cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia, chief parliamentary secretary KD Bhandari and Vidhan Sabha deputy speaker Bhagat Chunni Lal.
About a year ago, the BJP was grappling with anti-incumbency, factionalism and corruption. But the decision to field new faces, change cabinet berths and even swap constituencies with the SAD produced good results.