The Congress romped home in eight of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab but its tally fell short of expectations in the face of a stiff fight from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine, which bagged five seats.
The Congress juggernaut, powered by former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s strategy of harping on the non-performance of the SAD-BJP government and playing the Manmohan Singh card, clicked to an extent but failed to upset the SAD-BJP applecart to the degree the Congress had hoped for.
The Congress significantly improved its tally of two seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. But the party lost prestigious contests in Bathinda and Amritsar, where the SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, and the BJP’s Navjot Singh Sidhu came up with trumps.
Incidentally, Badal, who is Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law, defeated Raninder Singh, the only son of former chief minister.
SAD bagged four seats, four less than its 2004 tally, while the BJP could retain only one of the three seats it had won in 2004.
Though the Congress did well in the state’s three regions – Malwa, Doaba and Majha – the SAD did manage to retrieved some of the political ground it had lost in Malwa, its traditional bastion, in the 2007 Assembly elections by winning the Bathinda, Ferozepore and Faridkot seats. The Congress performed better in the Doaba and Majha belts.
An interesting feature of the outcome is four women – two each from the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine – have won for the first time. This means a third of the MPs from Punjab are women. While SAD was quick to draw comfort from what Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal termed a “split verdict”, the result is a wake-up call for the ruling alliance. It could also signal the first step in Amarinder Singh’s return to the centrestage of state politics.