Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh turned 70 Sunday, but
the euphoria of celebration was missing. Having just led his party
to a second consecutive loss in the assembly elections in just
five years, his failure was, no doubt, uppermost on everyone's
While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal basks in the glory of its
historic victory, having become the only party in over four
decades to get a second consecutive term in Punjab, Congress
leaders in the state have started murmuring that the state was
handed over on a platter to the Akalis by the Congress leadership.
Several reasons, from lack of planning, absence of senior leaders
at crucial times, wrong choice of candidates, including too many
kith and kin of important leaders managing Congress tickets and
ending up on the losing side to lack of focus to take on the Akali
Dal-BJP government and cashing in on the anti-incumbency vote,
delayed announcement of candidates for the Jan 30 assembly poll, a
late start to campaigning and leadership infighting, are being
cited now for the rout of the Congress.
The party, which as per Amarinder Singh's claims, was looking at
at least 70 seats in the 117-member assembly, ended up with 46
seats. The small consolation, if any, was that the Congress
improved its tally from 44 seats in the 2007 assembly poll to 46
In the Akali Dal-BJP camp, the Akalis improved their tally from 49
in 2007 to 56 this time even though the BJP went down from 19 last
time to 12 seats now.
"Prior to the polls, there was an atmosphere of euphoria among
party cadres due to unprecedented anti-incumbency against the SAD-BJP
government. Misgovernance, complete family rule, highly
politicised police and civil administration coupled with rampant
corruption, highhandedness and hijack of transport, cable network,
sand quarrying and bulk liquor were burning issues against the
government," Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who himself
lost the election to his Bholath seat, said in a statement.
"Had the Congress leadership exploited the above stated issues and
taken the fight down to the ground, I am dead sure results would
have been different. Merely issuing statements and inaction on the
ground caused great loss to the party," he said , seeking an
immediate meeting to pinpoint the reason for the Congress' defeat
and hold leaders accountable.
"Inaccessibility, the callous and lackadaisical approach of those
at the top, being surrounded by non-political people, rendered the
working machinery of the party frustrated and demoralised," he
Khaira's barbs are aimed at Amarinder and the coterie surrounding
A senior bureaucrat, analyzing the situation, told IANS here: "The
problem with the Congress leadership was they did not work hard
enough to win, thinking that getting back to power was their right
since no government has been repeated in the state. That is where
Amarinder is now also being accused of not having any 'connect'
with the people or even party leaders at the ground level. The
coterie around him, some of whom are very fond of partying, made
him inaccessible to leaders and common people even during the
His absence from the state at frequent intervals was a matter of
concern for Congress leaders but no one spoke about it openly.
Seeing all this, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal took up
the challenge of doing all the things that the complacent Congress
leadership was not doing.
From micro-management of each of the 117 assembly constituencies
to pushing development projects in the last 18 months of the
government to ensuring that everything was properly highlighted -
Sukhbir personally monitored everything.
The results on March 6 were there for all to see - and left the
Congress stunned at the doorstep of power.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)