Results of civic body elections in Punjab reflect the long shadow of the farmer’s protest with the state’s ruling Congress, which is opposed to the farm laws at the heart of the issue, winning a clear majority in six of the seven municipal corporations for which results were declared on Wednesday.
In the last elections, conducted in 2015, it did not win a majority in any of the corporations that went for polls on Sunday. Elections to the state assembly are to be held in early 2022 and analysts see the Congress’s strong performance as a boost for the ruling party, which has been facing the headwinds of anti-incumbency.
“The results are a prelude to the state polls scheduled in 2022. The reasons for this are its committed grassroot workers’ [reach] and historically it’s the single largest party and has an umbrella organisation character,” said Amanpreet Gill, a professor of political science in Khalsa college in Delhi.
Results of the eighth municipal corporation, Mohali, will be announced on Thursday. The six where the Congress has won a majority are Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Abohar Batala and Pathankot. Neither party has won the majority in Moga.
The Congress was also ahead of all other political parties in the majority of municipal councils and Notified Area Councils.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh termed the results as a validation of his government’s policies and the rejection of anti-people and anti-farmer parties. The Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Badal, in a Twitter message, thanked his party workers for fighting the polls and challenging the “corrupt” and “incompetent” government.
In all, 2,302 wards across 117 civic bodies including eight municipal corporations went to polls on February 14. Results for 2,150 wards were announced on Wednesday. Of these, the Congress won 1,360 wards. The BJP, contesting alone (its long-term ally, the SAD broke up with it over the farm bills) won 50, compared to the 248 it did in 2015, when 2,044 wards went to the polls. SAD won 281 fewer than the 870 it did in 2015. The Aam Aadmi Party, which did not contest the last elections, won 60 and independents won 390, down from 624 last time.
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State Congress chief, Sunil Jakhar, said, “Maintaining communal harmony would be the central plank of Congress government to steer the state on path of unprecedented growth, development and prosperity.”
The analysts said the Congress’s strong performance should be seen in the context of the farm protests.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for 84 days, seeking a repeal of the new farm laws, which they say will erode their bargaining power, weaken a system of assured prices, and leave them vulnerable to exploitation by big agri businesses.
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The government has maintained that the laws aim to ease restrictions on farm trade by setting up free markets, allow traders to stockpile large stocks of food for future sales and lay down a framework for contract farming.
“We are prepared for a lone fight and we will be successful,” said a SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema. BJP candidates were heckled during the campaign on account of the laws.
The polls evoked a strong response, witnessing a 71% turnout; it was 78% in 2015.