Political History of Punjab

Congress has been the largest party of Punjab even after reorganization of the state in 1966. Despite Blue Star and large scale involvement of Congress politicians in the 1984 Delhi riots, Congress vote share was less than Akalis only in one election (1997). Even after 1984 Congress has made three governments of its own 1992, 2002 and 2017 in the Indian State of Punjab.

In popular perception Punjab is seen as largely a Sikh state in reality it has a substantial Hindu population (40%). Sikhs are 58% of the state populations. Moreover it has a large Dalit population (32%) which is both Sikh and Hindu. Traditionally while rural Jatt Sikhs and Urban Sikhs with OBC Sikhs have been Akali voters, Hindus and majority of Dalits have voted Congress. While Hindu-Sikh polarization originated in the 1950s and 60s during the Punjabi Suba movement, it accentuated during the Khalistan Movement leading to Sikhs gravitating to “pro Punjab” Akalis while Hindus supported “pro India” Congress. At the same time in villages landholding Jatts have traditionally voted Akali while Landless Dalits have voted Congress.

Traditional majority in two of the three major social groups in Punjab (Hindu and Dalit) has led to Congress advantage over Akalis. Akalis have been able to form government only with help of Bharatiya Janata Party since 1997 which compete for Hindu votes with Congress in urban areas and gets about     7-8% vote. After 1997, both parties have made inroads in each other’s vote banks, while congress under Captain Amrinder Singh (2002-07) made major inroads among rural Jatt Sikh peasantry through pro-peasant policies- timely procurement, regular electricity supply, revival of cotton belt, termination of SYL agreement. Sukhbir Badal led Akali Dal was able to woo section of Hindus as well as Dalits during its 10 years reign (2007-17).

Coming to the Aam Aadmi faction, the latest entrant in national and Punjab politics. Here was a lot of hue and cry over their participation in Punjab politics in the last elections as well which never really led to any concrete results except a single win in one constituency.

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