The Congress’s victory in Punjab, bagging 77 of the 117 seats in the Assembly elections, comes as a salve for the beleaguered party.
This is its first victory in a big State since Karnataka 2013, and it took a particularly feisty campaign led by Amarinder Singh. The party had to fend off not just the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance but also the challenge posed by the Aam Aadmi Party, which had made a significant foray in the State in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
What do these results suggest about SAD-BJP coalition?
The results suggest a strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the SAD-BJP coalition. In its decade-long rule, it may have helped build the State’s infrastructure. But during its second term, public distaste grew over the consolidation of power in the Badal family, and there were reports of corruption and high-handedness.
The Congress managed to convert this disenchantment into support for itself, building a campaign around the leadership of Captain Singh and the promise of effective administration.
Challenges the Congress administration will have to face
1. It must address the agrarian crisis as well as high unemployment in the State. Punjab leads the country in youth unemployment rate, and its urban centres need renewal.
2. The drug problem continues to ravage rural Punjab, devastating families and nourishing a trafficking nexus.
3. The high debt-to-GDP ratio (31.4% in 2015-16 against the national average of 22%) puts further constraints on the State administration.
What is debt to GDP ratio?
The debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio between a country's government debt (a cumulative amount) and its gross domestic product (GDP) (measured in years).
A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces and sells goods and services sufficient to pay back debts without incurring further debt.
Importance of good governance in Punjab for Congress
The Congress has no option but to deliver, as its performance in Punjab is the key to its revival in northern and western India where the BJP has won most Assembly elections over the past five years.
Success here should also nudge the party to groom regional leaders instead of being dependent on its high command.
What affected the Aam admi Party (AAP)
The AAP, with its focus on rural areas, especially in the south-central Malwa region following its surprise success in 2014, made a play for the anti-Akali vote.
Problems associated with AAP
1. Infighting and the absence of a grassroots presence.
2. AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal has sought to move the party away from its volunteer-driven model towards a more centralised organisation. Its inability to convert the momentum generated in 2014 into a win in the Assembly election was partly a result of its failure in projecting a strong chief ministerial candidate.
So, in the end, the AAP was unable to substantially increase the vote share of around 24% that it had gained in 2014 and a great chunk of the Akali-BJP vote went to the Congress.
How can AAP utilize it’s position in the opposition?
For the AAP, the presence of 20 members in the new legislature allows it an opportunity to develop a grassroots presence.