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Mainstream, VOL LX No 13, New Delhi, March 19, 2022

2022 Punjab Assembly elections: Having Promised the moon, Can AAP Deliver? | Jaspreet Kaur

Friday 18 March 2022

by Jaspreet Kaur *

The results of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections held on February 20, has been declared on March 10. Voters have elected the 117 members for the 16th state assembly of Punjab. The results of Punjab Assembly election this time are astonishing as well as historic. First time in the electoral history of Punjab, any party got such a huge mandate from the public. Although, during the election campaign, the contest might seem like multi-faceted, but the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has won landslide victory. It has not only won the 92 seats with the 42% huge and historic vote share, but has also defeated many vaterns of the traditional parties of Punjab. This time the Punjab Assembly elections were unique and more complex in many respects. The newly elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government is going to take oath on 16th March. People of Punjab across the sections have not only given their mandate to the Aam Aadmi Party, but they also put a huge responsibilities and hopes upon the shoulders of new government.

The new government to be formed in Punjab by AAP would have to face the same challenges as before. This election was very different from the previous ones because it was a non-agenda election. No political party has contested elections on the basis of a major issue. During the election campaigns of all the political parties, they were either seen throwing mud at each other or trying to seduce the people with enticing promises. The only target of them was to capture the power by hook or crook.

There are many urgent and sensitive issues of Punjab which should be the basis of all political party’s narrative, but these are sidelined by all the political parties. Punjab’s debt is the most relevant issue and demands immediate consideration. It is increasing day by day. The Congress led Punjab government left the state with a projected debt burden of at least Rs 2.82 lakh crore by the time its five-year term ended in March this year. When the Congress government took over the reins of the state in March 2017, it got the legacy of Rs 1.82 lakh crore outstanding debts from the previous SAD-BJP alliance government. However, populist announcements and cash disbursements in the run-up to the 2022 state assembly polls campaign would undeniably increase the state’s debt burden beyond the projected Rs 2.82 lakh crore. The first and the foremost challenge for the new government is the growing debt of the Punjab.

As Punjab is a predominantly agricultural state, Punjab needs well planned and solid agricultural policy. The state’s economy is mainly dominated by agricultural production and small and medium-sized enterprises. The percentage of GDP produced by the agricultural sector was 25% in 2018–19. The growth rate of the agricultural sector was only 2.3% in 2018–19, compared to 6.0% for the state’s economy as a whole. But no policy related to agriculture was put forward by any political party during these elections. Punjab’s GDP growth rate is six percent which is half of India’s growth rate. Punjab has the 19th rank in growth rate among the states of India.

In addition, the problem of unemployment in Punjab is also serious. Due to the ongoing devastation of the public sector, the youth of Punjab is forced to go abroad. The condition of the education system in the state is critical. Many schools and colleges are without teachers. Punjab’s public health infrastructure is in a state of disrepair due to the apathy of the government and lack of funds.

In this election all the political parties remained silent on the regional issues like Punjab Water Issue, Chandigarh Issue, Punjabi Speaking Areas Issue, Punjabi Language Question, Incidents of sacrilege etc. The recent canalisation of the representation of Punjab in Bhakra Beas Management Committee (BBMB) and Dam Safety bill got a major resistance from Punjab and there is unrest in state on these federal issues.

Thirty percent of the Dalit population in Punjab also has its own issues. Out of which they have to take their due 33 percent share in the village common land based on the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961. But on political party has not been supported it openly. No issue regarding the women was discussed and became the part of political leader’s speeches. Only 93 women contested this election out of the total 1304 candidates which is only 7 percent of total candidates. The equal representation of women is not the concern of any political party. Moreover, no political party has any answer regarding the drug trade, sand mafia, deteriorating environment of Punjab.

Therefore, the new government will have to face the above challenges without which Punjab cannot be taken in the right direction. These all issues are of important concerns. The aggression of people in these elections against the traditional parties is why because they continuously ignored these issues. People have their hopes from the newly formed AAP government. The new government will be formed by popularly chosen Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) but the throne of Punjab will be full of challenges for it and the execution of the government is not going to be an easy task.

(Author: Jaspreet Kaur, Research Scholar, from Punjabi University, Patiala, associated with Peoples Pulse, Research Organisation on Electoral politics. peoplespulse.hyd[at]gmail.com)

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