National

Punjab Gives ‘Ek Mauka Kejriwal Nu’ As Broom Decimates Congress

AAP, which is comparatively a new entrant in the Punjab politics, was being seen as a surging political force in the run up to the elections. But until the exit polls, many analysts failed to predict that the party would easily cross the majority mark.

Delhi CM and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and AAP's Punjab CM candidate Bhagwant Mann
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It is Punjab’s complete disillusionment with the traditional parties — both national as well as regional — that defines the massive victory of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2022 state assembly election, according to political observers.

AAP, which is comparatively a new entrant in the Punjab politics, was being seen as a surging political force in the run up to the elections. But until the exit polls, many analysts failed to predict that the party would easily cross the majority mark.

Although sensing the regional sentiment, AAP had announced its two times MP from Sangrur Lok Sabha seat Bhagwant Mann as its chief ministerial candidate, it sought votes in the name of Arvind Kejriwal. The party’s poll slogan “Ek Mauka Kejriwal Nu (One chance to Kejriwal)” also underlined AAP’s poll narrative that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress couldn’t redress the longstanding issues of the state and therefore the people should give an opportunity to the AAP.

Since the start of agrarian crisis in Punjab, the political power has traditionally kept oscillating between the SAD, SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, and the Congress. AAP’s another poll slogan, “Is baar na khaawaange dhokha, Bhagwant Maan te Kejriwal nu dewaange mauka (We won’t be fooled this time, we will give chance to Bhagwant Mann and Kejriwal)” captured the popular disenchantment with other parties.

“Unlike previous state assembly election campaign in 2017, AAP didn’t involve Punjabi and Sikh diaspora to shed its pro-Khalistani image. And it seems to have played in its favour,” said Mandeep Punia, a Chandigarh-based journalist and political analyst. According to Punia, the party did well by declaring Bhagwant Mann as its chief ministerial candidate, thus putting to rest all speculations that an “outsider” Arvind Kejriwal could become Punjab’s chief minister.

Describing the factors that led to AAP’s electoral success in Punjab, Abhishek Srivastava, who is author of ‘Aam Aadmi Ke Naam Par’, an anthology of anti-corruption movement in India, said, “The perception that AAP is in direct conflict with the BJP in the Centre played in the party’s interest. Moreover, the party had supported farmers’ protest at the Delhi borders. The people had already tried SAD (Badal) and the Congress.”

The unceremonious exit of Captain Amarinder Singh backfired on Congress, according to Srivastava. He said, “Punjab has a deep-seated nationalist sentiment and has a long association with the armed forces. Therefore, his exit dented Congress’ image in public perception. Also, Charanjit Singh Channi failed to consolidate Dalit votes.”

Underscoring AAP’s alleged aloofness from larger ideological commitments, Srivastava wondered, “while the party has never spoken about larger issues of the state which are related to federalism, it has got the mandate. It is yet to be analysed as to why a state that is known for its political consciousness has placed such a party in the driving seat.”

Besides peoples’ disillusionment with the SAD and the Congress, Ashutosh Kumar, head of the Political Science department at Panjab University, also linked AAP’s  victory to Delhi Model of governance, which is credited with quality education and healthcare at government-run institutions, cheaper electricity and safe drinking water.

“AAP gave some hope to the people that it may clean up the system that has been plagued by several mafias for the past over 20 years. There’s hoping that AAP that has an untainted past in the politics of Punjab, will fulfill its poll promises,” Professor Kumar said.

While canvassing, the party offered several freebies, promising to deposit Rs 1,000 into the accounts of women on a monthly basis. This move is also believed to have galvanised women votes in rural areas where women continue to struggle with the patriarchy and economic subjugation. In fact, almost two months before the election, AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had formally launched a registration drive for his proposed scheme, saying the welfare scheme will be funded by stopping the purported Rs 20,000 crore illegal sand mining business that also involved politicians.

But farmer leaders like Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of Punjab’s biggest farm union BKU (Ugrahan), feels that it would be almost impossible for AAP to redress all the issues. His organisation hadn’t supported any political party in the assembly election. “They can curb corruption but can’t fulfill their other two promises regarding drug-free Punjab and providing employment to educated unemployed youth,” Ugrahan said, adding, “They don't have a roadmap for the revival of Punjab’s economy.”

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