Despite Modi-magic sweeping state polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand, Punjab proved to be an antithesis. In the results declared on Saturday, Bharatiya janata party (BJP) suffered a major setback as it could win only 3 seats of total 23 candidates it fielded.
The saffron party’s fortunes sunk with its coalition partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which could only win on just 15 seats out of total 94 of its candidates. BJP is falling considerably from the previous two assembly polls. It won 19 seats in 2007 and 12 in 2012. Similarly the vote share is also shrinking– 5.4% this time, 7.13% in 2012 and 8.21% in 2007.
BJP won one each seat in three regions of the state – Majha, Doaba and Malwa. Its two candidates – Dinesh Singh Babbu from Sujanpur and Som Parkash from Phagwara repeated, and first timer Arun Narang got elected from Abohar. Som Parkash won despite opposition by Sampla camp.
It two ministers – Anil Joshi who held the portfolio of local bodies minister in SAD-BJP coalition government and Surjeet Jyani a health minister, both lost badly from Amritsar North and Fazilka. Jyani came poor third and while Joshi a runner lost with a margin of over 11,000 votes.
BJP has lost en-block all its seats in the urban sectors where it has its trusted vote bank. It lost all four in Amritsar and three each in Jalandhar and Ludhiana, where it’s a huge losing margin from 5,000 to 42,000 votes.
Demonetization announced by PM Narendra Modi in November month last year proved a setback for the BJP, which is visible in its performance in the urban sector. It seems BJP leaders felt the undercurrents, as its candidate Anil Joshi in one of his poll campaign meetings openly sought forgiveness from the people of his constituency, claiming not role in it.
The saffron party also badly lost on semi-urban seats such as Rajpura (Harjeet Grewal with 32,557 margin), Pathankot (Ashwini Sharma with 11,170 margin), Hoshiarpur (Tikshan Sud with 11,233 margin) and Ferozpur city (Sukhpal Singh Nannu with 29,587 margin).
BJP in Punjab, actually, failed to insulate itself from the negative perception its coalition partner SAD earned after ten years of rule in the state. “This was expected because we failed to protect ourselves from the public ire Akalis suffered. We were punished a severely as Akalis,” said a BJP leader who doesn’t want to be quoted “at a wrong time”. Leaders in the party are also questioning state unit president Vijay Sampla’s wisdom on the choice of candidates.
Sampla magic could only work on a new face from Abohar where a debutant Arun Narang and other two are old timers. As the party leaders in BJP are seeking Sampla’s head, he said, he bows his head to the mandate by people.
A beginning was made by the party’s top leaders to disassociate itself from the Akali after the poor results in 2014 parliament, when BJP made government in the centre but Punjab was a dampener. Balramji Das Tandon now governor Chhattisgarh, in his report post the 2014 polls asked SAD-BJP to discontinue system of centralising power to halqa incharge and other course correction, later voices were raised by the BJP cadres to disassociate itself from the Akalis, but the suggestions became meaningless for the saffron party cadres in the desire to continue in the government.
Other than it personal reasons BJP also suffered due to external factors. Maur bomb blast five days before the poll day killing six persons, the attempts by aam aamdi party (AAP) to placate the radicals and drifting towards the radicals, it seems the Hindu voters drifted en-masse towards the Congress. Top national leaders of the party who campaigned in Punjab gave a token presence, their failed to make much difference to their party’s poll fortunes.