The Election Commission of India on Saturday declared the Punjab Assembly elections 2022 schedule, announcing February 14 (Monday) as the voting date.
The Punjab election results 2022 will be declared on March 10 (Thursday) when counting of votes in the state takes place along with four other poll-bound states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
With the announcement of the Assembly elections schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force across Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. The last day of voting in the upcoming election season will be March 7, typically the day when exit polls results are announced.
The build-up to the Punjab elections has been heating up since 2020 when thousands of farmers marched from the state to Delhi’s borders demanding a rollback of the three farm laws they alleged to favour corporates over farmers. They camped at the national capital’s borders for more than a year before the Centre repealed the laws in Parliament.
The farmers may have returned to their homes but the saga will likely echo in the upcoming elections, twists and turns in the fortunes of the ruling Congress, BJP-Amarinder Singh alliance and an upbeat Aam Aadmi Party making the race too-close-to-call yet.
Numbers in Punjab Assembly
The Punjab Assembly has a total of 117 seats, with 59 being the majority mark. The 117 constituencies in Punjab are spread over three regions – Majha (25 constituencies), Doaba (23) and Malwa (69).
In the 2017 Punjab elections, the Congress has come to power with 77 seats, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) delivered a surprising 20 seats. Ousted from power, the Shiromani Akali Dal won 15 seats and its then alliance partner, the BJP, won three. The tenure of the current Punjab Assembly ends on March 27, 2022.
Despite the acrimonious replacement of Captain Amarinder Singh as Punjab Chief Minister in September, the Punjab Congress seemed to be at an advantage over other parties in the state. It brought in Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM, and despite the Opposition terming it a “stop-gap arrangement”, the grand old party patted itself on the back for giving Punjab its first Dalit Chief Minister.
But passive-aggressive statements against Channi by state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and the sacrilege-lynching incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala have robbed the Congress of that advantage. Completing the trifecta of troubles was the breach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security in Ferozepur on Wednesday.
It is also heading into elections without a chief ministerial face, caught in a catch-22. The high command cannot declare Channi as the CM face and risk antagonizing the Sidhu camp. Nor can it declare Sidhu as the chief ministerial candidate and prove the Opposition’s “stop-gap” jibe to be correct.
The Congress is nevertheless hoping that the farmers’ protest and its action against former Akali Dal minister Bikram Singh Majithia in drugs cases will bring it back in action.
The AAP is also heading into the polls with no CM face despite overt feelers from Bhagwant Mann but the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is riding high on the Chandigarh civic polls result where it emerged the single-largest party. It has been promising Punjab voters a Sikh CM, the Delhi model of governance and comes without baggage in the state unlike the other players. Speculation is rife that the AAP may tie-up with farmer outfits that have announced political plunge.
The BJP is carrying the bitter baggage of farm laws protest into the election but hopes its alliance with former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s newly formed Punjab Lok Congress will offset some of that. The party has also galvanized ground workers in different states to show how “serious lapses” on the part of the Congress government compromised the Prime Minister’s security in Ferozepur.
The separate sacrilege attempts and lynching of the accused at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and Kapurthala have given the BJP ammunition to target the Channi government over law and order.
Voted out of power in 2017, the Shiromani Akali Dal has been struggling to get back up there. Its decision to walk out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws issues didn’t result in the political dividend it hoped it would.
The FIR against Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia came as yet another blow but the party has been alleging “political vendetta” behind the move. It has nevertheless got off the block announcing candidates to few seats.