Landslide win for Sikhs in Punjab

Chandigarh - A Sikh party was poised yesterday to rule India's Punjab state for the next five years after a landslide victory in the first peaceful elections in nearly two decades.

The Akali Dal, led by the former chief minister, Prakash Singh Badal, and its ally the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overwhelming four-fifths of the 117 seats in the state legislature.

"The Hindus dominate the cities. The BJP is their major mouthpiece. Sikhs dominate the countryside. The combination is formidable," said Ashis Nandy, an analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.

It was a significant win for the Sikh party, which won a dominant 74 seats after boycotting the last Punjab elections in 1992. The state's ruling Congress party was reduced to only 14 seats.

Some 69 per cent of the state's 15 million voters had turned out for Friday's polls, in sharp contrast with 1992 when 22 per cent voted in an election overshadowed by Sikh separatist violence.

A rival, pro-separatist faction of the Akali Dal won just one seat in yesterday's final tally. Its leader, former police official turned militant, Simranjit Singh Mann, was defeated.

Mr Badal, 69, is expected to take office as Punjab's chief minister later this week.

The rich farming region bordering Pakistan has been rocked by years of guerrilla violence. Analysts said the Akali Dal's poll alliance with the BJP offered Sikhs and Hindus a chance to overcome the distrust. "The Akalis never encouraged militancy. They were soft on the militants. The militancy was the handiwork of groups which were opposed to the Akalis," Mr Nandy said.

The landslide victory should reduce pressure on Prime Minister Deve Gowda's United Front alliance, analysts said yesterday. The once-monolithic Congress Party governs only six of India's 26 states and has been reduced to a reluctant supporter of the country's fractious ruling centre-left coalition.

The analysts said Congress was expected to scale down its frequent threats to topple the United Front alliance, which took power last June, and force mid-term elections at the national level.

"The Congress will simply have to pause," said Surjit Grewal, a political analyst in Punjab's capital, Chandigarh. "The lesson in Punjab is that the Congress is extremely unpopular here. The scene can't be much brighter for it in other regions."

Akali Dal leaders said the Punjab election also held a lesson for the BJP. "The BJP should now realise the benefits of having the support of minorities," said Akali Dal spokesman Kanwaljit Singh. "I do believe the party has to seek a policy of moderation if it truly wants to govern India."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power