Assembly Elections 2022: The legislative assembly elections in Punjab are already over. The political parties had made constant political strategies, planning, and campaigning to influence voters. After the declaration of the code of conduct by the honourable election commission, parties were not leaving any stone unturned. From door-to-door campaigning to press conferences, every party tried to be ahead of one another.
The elections this time seem to be very complex as the competition among and within the parties were really tough. Observed the same, parties in Punjab had made their strategies and executed their political moves accordingly. The national party Congress’ move to appoint a Dalit CM in Punjab for the first time as Charanjit Singh Channi was historic. It was a major step in mobilizing Dalit votes by the party. Punjab possesses the highest proportion of Scheduled Caste - 31.9% as per Census of India 2011. Thus, having a Dalit CM despite a large SC population was a long-awaited dream that Congress had made. The Dalit population is really elated with the decision. Appointing a Dalit CM right before a few months of the election was expected to impact the elections.
The political battleground in Punjab witnessed Congress, Akali – BSP alliance, Punjab Lok Congress - BJP alliance, and farmer’s Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, AAP, competing for victory. Congress’ Dalit card was supposed to attract Dalit votes. Simultaneously, Dalit peasants supporting farmers may have probably switched sides after Congress’ move. There arose a dilemma for such voters. Other political parties too on the other hand tried their best to mobilize Dalit votes along with other minorities to form a balance in their respective vote banks. It was a positive step as it promoted ‘Inclusive Democracy’, thus encouraging even educated youth to come forward in politics from all the respective sections of the society. There is a constitutional provision of reserving seats for marginalised communities thus safeguarding their political interests but candidates from such sections are often deprived of high and important posts while working within the party or government. So, this remarkable initiative has had opened new opportunities for minorities and marginalised communities.
Removing a CM from royal background and appointment of a Dalit CM instead irrespective of the political circumstances of the time had strengthened the position of Congress a little. Moreover, Channi had come to the forefront more like an ordinary man as highlighted from his speeches. His easy access to the public and his humbleness had made him quite popular. Along with this incident of Bikram Singh Majithia’s arrest case and tackling the major issue regarding PM’s recent visit to Punjab, wisely and boldly acted like the icing on the cake for CM. In answer to the centre regarding the same, his words were worth noting and applaudable - “Farmers were peacefully protesting on Delhi borders for a year. Farmers have their demands and today, if some people were peacefully protesting here, then it should not be seen as a threat to PM’s security. I am not going to use ‘Lathis’ or ‘Bullet’ on the people of Punjab. I appeal to all, especially the BJP to not indulge in politics on the issue”. His concern for the people of Punjab was expressed from his words and it rewarded him with appreciation from people.
However, his image was tarnished after the immediate raid by the Enforcement Directorate on the house of one of the relatives of CM. His nephew was taken into custody by ED. He has accepted that he received ₹ 10 crore cash to facilitate sand mining operations and transfer or post officials in the border state. The major allegation of heading illegal sand mining on Charanjit Singh Channi had depicted him as a corrupt leader before voters. Whether it is true, planned or an effort to defame him, we never know as a lot goes on within the arena of politics. All this continues behind a curtain that a layman can never predict. Along with this, he had been alleged by opposition and people from time to time for not fulfilling their demands as he emphasised more on saying than actually doing it. Further, complications and lack of coordination with Navjot Singh Sidhu had even deteriorated the situation. After Channi’s appointment as CM many leaders of Congress had left the party giving a major setback to it ahead of elections. This was a clear indication of a lack of mutual coordination among the ministers. Keeping the party consolidated was a big challenge for CM. This scenario had created a feeling of unrest among voters towards Congress. What actually Congress had probably done for, is now creating problems for it.
Once again, its feet in Punjab seemed to be staggering, which gained some stability a few months back. Further, Congress’s position is going on a back front as observed from people’s responses in pre-poll surveys. Various surveys held are showing AAP emerging as the largest party. These are only predictions yet, the actual picture will be seen on the day of result declaration i.e., 10 March 2022. Moreover, the Akali- BSP alliance in these elections representing both Jat Sikh and Dalits was considered a competitor for the ruling Congress party even after playing the Dalit card. The alliance became a new social paradigm in a state claiming Dalits to be equal stakeholders in government formation. SAD was even focused on launching Hindu faces so that it doesn’t lose the support of the Hindu vote bank after breaking the alliance with the BJP. Its strategy of wooing voters of all the sections may probably create a tough situation for Congress. Consequently, to have a continuous influence over Dalits, Rahul Gandhi declared Channi as a candidate for CM in Punjab on 7 February 2022. The implications of the political moves made by parties, now entirely lies on votes cast by voters.
The election of 2022 will have a major role in Punjab politics and in determining its future scenario. The scenario is predicted to change as politics may become more performance-based, contributory, and participatory. People will prefer to choose leaders based on their previous performance and contribution to fulfilling people’s demands and their efficiency of being a leader on people’s terms. The day of results is approaching fast. With lots of hopes and aspirations, the People of Punjab are thus eagerly waiting for a new government to hold state reigns, elected in the majority’s interests.
-‘Let’s see which way the wind blows’
By Gurjeet Kaur (Assistant Prof. Mata Gujri College Fatehgarh Sahib)
and Navkiran Kaur ( Student of BAHSS-II)