Punjab proved to be the only face-saver for the Congress in the parliamentary elections in north India, with two-time Chief Minister Amarinder Singh securing victory for his party in eight out of the state's 13 Lok Sabha seats.
Defying the BJP's anti-dynasty tirade, the Punjab Chief Minister managed to secure a fourth term for his wife Preneet Kaur from Patiala. Preneet Kaur defeated her Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine's Surjit Singh Rakhra by record margin of 162,718 votes.
However, Amarinder Singh has let it be known that he is not satisfied with his party performance in state's urban pockets. Without mincing words, he even recommended a change in the portfolio of Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to ensure speedy compliance of development projects.
The Chief Minister said the urban vote bank had been the backbone of the Congress in Punjab but Sidhu's failure to do any development work had impacted the party, which had performed well in the rural areas this time.
Ahead of the elections, he had categorically told his ministers and legislators to work for party candidates, failing which there may be repercussions on the composition of the Cabinet.
Political observers believe Amarinder Singh used his former Army background to effectively counter Prime Minister Modi's nationalism and national security agenda and it worked in his favour because fellow 'faujis' (armymen) associated with his message.
His promise of a memorial in Bargari for the 2015 Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing victims also put the former SAD-BJP combine government in a spot. And shrewd Amarinder Singh time and again raked up the sacrilege incidents during the elections.
"The poll results clearly indicate the voters have not forgotten sacrilege incidents that hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs during the SAD-BJP government stint in 2015," a political observer told IANS.
His handling of the issue of the 1984 riots, by condemning it publicly, also helped counter the polarisation of votes.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at email@example.com)
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