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January 13, 1998


Congress vote bank shrinks; Akalis, BSP gain

The Congress's political base has significantly shrunk in Punjab since 1971. Its present alliance partner, the Bahujan Samaj Party, however, made sizeable inroads into the electoral scene during the three polls it contested so far.

The Akali Dal's vote percentage has registered an upward trend during the period if the performance of both party factions, the Akali Dal (Badal) and Akali Dal (Mann) are combined.

The parties have been fighting separately since 1989. If taken separately, the Akali Dal (Badal)'s share came down marginally as compared to that of the united Akali Dal in 1971. But the party was able to gain in terms of seats won during the period.

The Akali Dal (Mann) fared poorly in the last election, both in terms of percentage of votes and the number of seats.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has drawn a blank, except in 1977, when the party in its earlier incarnation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh merged with the Janata Party and fought elections in the state on the Bharatiya Kranti Dal's symbol. Its percentage of votes, however, has registered an increase from 4.58 per cent in 1971 to 6.48 in the last Lok Sabha poll.

While the Congress got 45.96 per cent of votes in 1971, it could succeed in garnering only 35.10 per cent of the electorate's support in the last Lok Sabha election in the state.

This reduced the number of seats the party won in the state to merely two in the 11th Lok Sabha. In 1971, it had bagged 10 seats. But in 1989, it managed to get two seats.

The Congress met its nemesis in 1977, unable to get even a single seat despite getting 34.85 per cent of the votes polled. The voting pattern was in line with the rest of north India because of the anti-Emergency wave.

The party got the highest numbers of seats in 1980 and 1992 when it won 12 seats, cornering 52.45 and 49.27 per cent of votes respectively.

The re-emergence of Indira Gandhi's dominance in the Indian polity, following the failure of the Janata Party and the Lok Dal governments, got reflected in state politics, too, in 1980. The 1992 elections could not present the correct picture as the Akali Dal (Badal) boycotted the polls.

The BSP made its presence felt in the state polity in the very first election it fought in 1989. Though the party fielded 12 candidates, it could bag only one seat, garnering 8.62 per cent of the votes. The party improved its tally to 19.7 per cent in 1992, but could not make much headway in terms of seats which remained at one.

In the last Lok Sabha election, the BSP bagged three seats out of the four it contested. The party had an alliance with the Akali Dal (Badal). Though it contested only four seats, the party was able to secure as much as 9.35 per cent of the votes polled.

The Akali Dal got 30.85 per cent of the votes in 1971, but could secure only one seat out of the 12 it contested. The party's best performance came in 1977, when it secured all the nine seats it contested due to the pro-Janata Party wave. It notched up 42.30 per cent of the votes.

However, in 1980, its share was reduced to 23.37 per cent and it was able to bag only one seat out of the seven it contested.

In 1985, while the Congress, riding a sympathy wave, overcame the opposition in other parts of the country, the Akali Dal checkmated it in Punjab. The Dal bagged seven out of the 11 seats it contested that year and secured 37.17 per cent of the votes.

The party, however, could not remain united in the 1989 election. The Akali Dal (Badal) was marginalised as the hardliners, supporting the Mann group, held sway in the election.

The Akali Dal (Badal) drew a blank and received only 5.38 per cent of the votes. The Mann faction secured six seats out of the nine it contested and garnered 29.19 per cent of the votes.

However, Akali Dal (Mann) chief Simranjeet Singh Mann resigned from the ninth Lok Sabha in protest against the prevalent law, preventing any person to enter Parliament with a sword.

The 1992 poll was boycotted by both factions of the Akali Dal. The last Lok Sabha election was contrary to that of 1989 as far as the Akali Dal is concerned. In that election, the moderate Akalis, the Badal group, emerged stronger while hardliners of the Mann group were isolated.

They secured eight seats out of the nine seats contested, netting 28.72 per cent of votes. The Akali Dal (Amritsar), led by Mann, got only 3.85 per cent of the votes and could not get any seat.

As for the ensuing election, the Congress has a tie-up with the BSP and has offered four seats out of the 13 to that party. This is the first time the Congress is fighting an election in alliance with another party in the state.

The Akali Dal (Badal) has an alliance with the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Morcha, a splinter group of the BSP.

The BJP has been given three seats, including Hoshiarpur, where the party has got a strong candidate in Kamal Chowdhry who defected from the Congress recently. The BSM was left with one seat.

The Akali Dal has offered the Jalandhar seat to Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral.

This leaves the ruling party with eight seats in the poll, where it has already declared its candidates.


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