Punjab wanted change, listened to ‘Mann ki baat’
Chandigarh : A strong clamour for change, Bhagwant Mann-Kejriwal ki jodi and the party’s track record in Delhi propelled the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to power in Punjab
Chandigarh : A strong clamour for change, Bhagwant Mann-Kejriwal ki jodi and the party’s track record in Delhi propelled the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to power in Punjab.
The scale of its resounding victory – the highest-ever single party tally of 92 out of the 117 assembly seats with 42% vote share, reflects the frustration among the voters with the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and their complete rejection. The defeat of political bigwigs like former chief ministers Parkash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh, incumbent CM Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal at the hands of first-timers of the AAP only reinforces this deep disaffection towards the traditional parties.
Both these parties had dominated the electoral landscape of the state and ruled for the past seven decades engender the craving for change across the large swathes of the border state. Pitching itself as an alternative to the two parties having a history of 100 or more years, the AAP asked for a chance with the slogan of ‘Ik mauka Bhagwant Mann te Kejriwal nu’ (Give a chance to Bhagwant Mann and Kejriwal), which has resonated well with Punjabis in all three regions.
The AAP, born out of the anti-corruption movement a decade earlier, rode this sentiment to break their duopoly in the state. The undercurrent, according to a political analyst, was so strong that people opted for ‘jhadoo’ (broom - the party’s election symbol) on EVMs irrespective of who its candidate was. Of the 40-odd turncoats fielded by the party, almost 80 have won their seats.
Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh, said the antipathy towards the Akalis and Congress was the biggest factor in this election as people wanted to teach them a lesson. “The AAP has not been in power here and this worked to its advantage. Also, people have some degree of confidence that the party, particularly Kejriwal, will bring change and cleanse the state politics,” he said.
‘Delhi model’ turns out to be biggest attraction for voters
The positive feedback about the ‘Delhi model of governance’, especially its focus on school education and health, from thousands of state farmers, who had camped at the national capital’s borders for close to a month during their stir against the Centre’s now-repealed three agriculture laws, also helped create a buzz about the party. Kejriwal’s announcement of freebies, including ₹1,000 per month to women and free power, education and medical treatment, ahead of others helped the party get traction.
Kejriwal had unveiled a 10 point ‘Punjab Model’, drawn from its model of governance in Delhi, and assured the voters of creating a new-age, prosperous, and forward-looking Punjab. While Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the entire country was now looking up to Delhi’s model of governance of Kejriwal, senior AAP leader Gopal Rai asserted that people have given their mandate to AAP in Punjab looking at the work of the party’s government under Kejriwal in Delhi. “Our Delhi model of governance turned out to be the biggest attraction among the voters. The kind of work that has been done by the Delhi government under Kejriwal in education, healthcare and other sectors sent out a positive message and gave hope to the people of Punjab,” the Delhi environment minister said.
Naming Mann as CM face did the trick
Another significant factor was the appointment of Mann, who has a strong connect with rural masses, as the CM face following a phone-based survey. Not only did the move lend instant heft to the election campaign, the Congress was also forced to name its own CM face, seeing the response Mann was getting. A party strategist said the Kejriwal-Mann jodi and their smooth, well-coordinated campaign was a contrast to a squabbling Congress and also dispelled the earlier impression of the AAP being a divided house. Both the Congress and SAD tried to use this to dub the AAP as a party of “outsiders wanting to rule Punjab”, but this did not cut much ice with voters.