Congress’ strong sacrilege pitch fails to dent Badal’s poll prospects
The ruling Congress’ sacrilege pitch against the Badal family did not find much resonance among voters as Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal won from the Ferozepur constituency with the highest margin of 1.70 lakh in Punjab while his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur scored a hat-trick from Bathinda.
While Sukhbir defeated his nearest rival Sher Singh Ghubaya of the Congress in all assembly constituencies of the Ferozepur seat, Harsimrat led in five of the nine assembly segments, including Lambi, Bhucho Mandi, Bathinda (urban), Bathinda (rural) and Budladha. She trailed in Talwandi Sabo, Maur, Mansa and Sardulgarh. Of these, Lambi, Maur, Talwandi Sabo, Bhucho Mandi and Sardulgarh segments are predominantly rural.
The election outcome indicates that electors in the state did not vote on the basis of religious issues, say political observers.
“The issue of sacrilege of religious scriptures did not yield any poll dividends trend in the state, against what was expected by some political analysts. The main political players — Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance — failed to touch upon public-oriented issues in Punjab,” said Dr Jagrup Singh Sekhon, head of the department of political science at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) and state coordinator of Lokniti, a social science research programme of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
There was hardly any taker for the SAD’s campaign against the Congress on the issues of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Operation Bluestar either, he added.
During its poll campaign, the Congress led by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh trained guns at the Badals on the issue of 2015 desecration and police firing during the Akali regime in Punjab to corner the family as well as their party. Not only the CM repeatedly urged people to vote against the Badal couple, the Congress even organised a rally for party president Rahul Gandhi at Bargari, the epicentre of sacrilege. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi also addressed a rally in Bathinda to take on the Badals.
Even the party’s star campaigner Navjot Sidhu raked up the issue to consolidate the Sikh votes, but to no avail, another political expert said. “There may be an undercurrent on the issue of the 2015 sacrilege incidents but it did not become an election issue. Even other contestants such as Punjab Ekta Party chief Sukhpal Singh Khaira attacked the Badals on the same issue but could not convert the same into votes,” he said. “The Congress stooped low to defame us but voters rejected their propaganda,” Harsimrat said.