The Shiromoni Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance on Tuesday created history in Punjab by storming back to power for a second consecutive term, breaking a 46-year-old jinx.
Bucking the anti-incumbency trend, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) won 56 seats while its alliance partner BJP got 12 seats, taking the combine's tally to 68 in the 117-member assembly in the results declared on Tuesday.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has called a meeting of the party's newly-elected legislators on March 8 while the two allies will also meet on the same day.
On Thursday, a joint meeting of the two allies will also be held before SAD's core committee meeting to firm up details of government formation.
An upheat Sukhbir said the message is loud and clear from the electorate that they would vote for anyone who performs.
The SAD-BJP alliance had won 69 seats in the 2007 election. While SAD has improved its tally from 50, BJP has suffered loss of seven seats from the 19 it earlier held.
The Congress, which was banking on anti-incumbency factor to ride to power, won only 46 seats, only marginally higher than the 42 it got last time. Three others were won by independents.
SAD rebel Manpreet Singh Badal's PPP failed to open its account with the four-time MLA also losing from Gidderba and Maur.
An ecstatic Parkash Singh Badal, who is all set to don the chief minister's mantle for a record fifth time, termed it as a vote for "peace and development".
Praising his son -- Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the 84-year-old Akali patriarch said he played a "big role" in ensuring return of SAD-BJP to power.
Sukhbir Singh told PTI, "The victory showed people's trust in Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's leadership and the work done by him. He will be the chief minister and a final decision will be taken by the party."
It is the first time since 1966, when Haryana was carved out of Punjab, that any ruling party has returned to power.
A disappointed Congress resigned itself to yet another stint in opposition with its chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh saying he accepted the people's verdict and offered to quit as state Pradesh Congress Committee chief.
"I will leave it to the Congress president. If she wishes, I will step down," Singh, whose son Raninder Singh lost from Samana, told reporters.
Chief Minister Badal won from his Lambi seat defeating his nearest Congress rival and cousin Mahesh Inder Singh Badal by a margin of 24,739 votes.
Besides infighting, the SAD-BJP combine went into the polls fighting allegations of corruption and nepotism. It also had to reconcile with a number of rebels.
The assembly results proved the exit polls wrong which had predicted a Congress win or a close fight between the two parties.
Badal was chief minister for 15 months in 1970-71 and for 32 months in 1977-1980 without any alliance with the BJP or its earlier avatars. His third tenure as chief minister from 1997 -- first time to complete full five years -- was in alliance with BJP. He became the chief minister for the fourth time in 2007 again heading a BJP-SAD government.
On Congress' defeat, Badal said, "There are numerous reasons for this. It is the most corrupt party. There is no sense of security prevailing among people, there is so much price rise, unemployment and the party has no agenda to take this country forward".
The other prominent SAD winners include Deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, (Jalalabad) former SGPC President Jagir Kaur (Bholath), Hockey Olympian Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt), Farzana Alam (Malerkotla) wife of former DGP Mohd Izhar Alam and former Youth Akali Dal President Sharanjit Singh Dhillon (Sahnewal).
Prominent partymen who lost included ministers Upinderjit Kaur, Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Sewa Singh Sekhwan besides former senior IAS officer D S Guru (Bhadaur), who was principal secretary to chief minister and former DGP P S Gill (Moga).
The prominent Congressmen to win included state unit Chief Amarinder Singh (Patiala), former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra), industrialist Kewal Singh Dhillon (Barnala), Gur Iqbal Kaur from Nawan Shahar.
The other Congress partymen to lose included sitting legislators Jasbir Singh Khangura (Dakha), Avtar Singh Brar (Faridkot) and Ripjit Singh Brar (Kot Kapura).
The prominent BJP winners include state unit Chief Ashwani Sharma (Pathankot), former ministers Manoranjan Kalia (Jalandhar Central) and Madan Mohan Mittal (Anandpur Sahab) and BJP MP Navjot Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur.
BJP stalwarts to lose include Tikshan Sud (Hoshiarpur) and deputy speaker of the state assembly Satpal Gosain (Ludhiana).
Sukhbir retained Jalalabad seat with the highest margin of 50,246 votes defeating his nearest rival Hans Raj Josan, a Congress rebel, who contested as an Independent.
Despite the chief minister's cousin Mahesh Inder Singh and his younger brother Gurdas being in fray from the Lambi constituency, Badal this time won by a record margin of 24,739 votes as against 9,187 votes five years back.
Badal got 67,999 votes as compared to 43260 polled by Mahesh Inder Singh Badal.
Amarinder Singh won the Patiala seat with a margin of 42,318 votes defeating his nearest rival Surjit Singh Kohli of the SAD. His name for the chief ministership had been announced by Rahul Gandhi much before the polling during the campaigning itself.
Amarinder's son Raninder lost by 6,930 votes against SADs Surjit Singh Rakhra from Samana.
Speaker and deputy speaker of the state assembly Nirmal Singh Kahlon (SAD) and Satpal Gosain (BJP) lost from Fatehgarh Churian and Ludhiana Central constituencies respectively.
Sitting ministers who lost included Hira Singh Gabria (Atam Nagar), Sucha Singh Langaha (Dera Baba Nanak), Tikshan Sud (Hoshiarpur).
On the dismal show by his estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal's People's Party of Punjab, Badal said, "I have always been saying that Manpreet has committed a blunder and a political suicide (by floating separate party)".
"Your party is like a mother, you cannot ditch it," he said.
The People's Party of Punjab had put up candidates at 92 seats but drew a blank.
Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh's close relative Harminder Singh Jassi also lost and failed to retain his traditional Bhatinda Urban seat where the sect has considerable influence.
Two former bureaucrats, former Principal Secretary to chief Minister D S Guru and former DGP P S Gill lost from Bhadaur and Moga respectively.
Suman Kaypee and Harbans Kaur Dullo, wives of two former presidents of Punjab Congress Mohinder Singh Kaypee and Shamsher Singh Dullo, lost from Jalandhar west and Bassi Pathanan respectively.
Former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who merged his party -- Lokbhalai Party -- with the SAD suffered defeat from SAS Nagar Mohali seat.
Badal's son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh retained the Patti seat by a narrow margin of 59 votes.
The three Independents elected to the state assembly are Simarjit Singh Bainsa (Atam Nagar), Rajnish Kumar (Mukerian) and Balwinder Singh Bainsa (Ludhiana South).
Celebrations erupted in the camps of SAD and its alliance BJP across the state whereas the Congress camp presented a picture of contrast.
As the day progressed and it became clear that SAD-BJP coalition led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would again capture power, mood was upbeat as workers started celebrating the victory.
Joyous scenes were witnessed across the state, including in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Phagwara and Pathankot.
A battery of mediapersons were camping in Badal's home constituency Lambi, and electronic media journalists were running around for the exclusive sound bytes.
SAD workers celebrated by distributing 'ladoos' in Lambi, where 84-year-old Badal had once again stamped his authority in a fight that saw him locked with his own estranged brother, Gurdas and cousin Mahesh Inder Singh.
SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal's constituency Jalalabad also erupted in joy as he won by a huge margin.
"The question of Sukhbir's victory was never in doubt, but people of Jalalabad were also sure of SAD returning to power. Sukhbir Singh is hard working and has vision for taking Punjab forward. He has showed this by bringing in several governance reforms and even hosting a mega event like World Cup Kabaddi," said Malkit Singh, a staunch Akali worker.
State BJP President Ashwani Sharma's win from Pathankot also pumped enthusiasm among the party workers, who could be seen dancing to the 'dhol' and distributing sweets among the people.
In contrast, it was a sombre mood in the Congress camp, whose State President Amarinder Singh had earlier exuded confidence of the party winning 70 plus seats in the 117-member assembly.
"We were hoping for comeback of Amarinder Singh as chief minister of the state. We had made all preparations in anticipation of Amarinder taking oath as CM this week, but destiny had wished it otherwise," said Ravinder Singh, a die-hard Congress supporter.