ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Outlier in the North

Success of the Congress in Punjab

The most significant development of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Punjab was the victory of the Congress, making the state an outlier in almost all of India, except for Kerala. Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party’s narrative of national security nor its strong leader could find much traction in the state. The significant loss of the core social constituency’s (read the Sikhs) support of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the decline or almost decimation of the Aam Aadmi Party were important developments of this election.

The authors are grateful to Hardeep Kaur, Rajwinder Sidhu, and Jyoti Mishra for their inputs.

Punjab “exceptionalism” was in evidence again in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as it was the only state in North India where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), could not do well. It was a repeat of the 2014 parliamentary elections. The electoral rout of the SAD–BJP alliance, in place since the 1997 assembly elections, was especially glaring as the neighbouring states of Haryana and lower Himachal Pradesh region, which were once part of the greater Punjab, voted overwhelmingly for the BJP. In fact, along with Kerala, Punjab was the only state in the entire country where the Congress scored impressive victories.

The narrative of national security, popularised by the BJP to its advantage after the Pulwama incident, did not seem to receive much traction in the state. Arguably, it was because the electorates in the state, especially those residing in the border regions engaged in cultivation and trade across the border, have always suffered whenever there is a war or even tension at the border. This explains why Punjabi voters, despite having a large presence in the armed forces and having wounded memories of the bloodied partition, still have been great votaries of peace on the border unlike the strong “anti-Pakistan” feeling sweeping across India creating a short-term warlike hysteria and radical nationalism fuelled by religiosity.

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Updated On : 17th Aug, 2019
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