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With 85 Debutant MLAs, Punjab Witnesses the Rise of a New Political Class

With 85 Debutant MLAs, Punjab Witnesses the Rise of a New Political Class

Of the 85 new MLAs, 82 are from AAP. The state assembly will also, for the first time in decades, witness the absence of some seasoned politicians who called the shots for long.

Chandigarh: Punjab has not only delivered an unprecedented mandate in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) but the election result has also led to the emergence of a new political class. In the 117-member assembly, 85 are first-time MLAs, indicating a generational shift in Punjab’s polity. The assembly will also, for the first time in decades, witness the conspicuous absence of some seasoned politicians of the state.

Of the 85 debutant MLAs, 82 MLAs belong to AAP. Even chief minister-designate Bhagwant Mann, who led AAP to an unprecedented victory, will also enter the assembly for the first time. Before winning the Dhuri assembly segment in the 2022 polls, he was an MP from the Sangrur district of Punjab for two terms.

The political corridors of Punjab will now witness the absence of Badals, Bikram Singh Majithia, Captain Amarinder Singh and other bigwigs like Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who called the shots in the state politics for long.

Clockwise from top left: Congress leaders Charanjit Singh Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu, former CM Capt Amarinder Singh, Bikram Singh Majithia, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Parkash Singh Badal who lost Assembly elections 2022, in Punjab. Photo: PTI.

On the other hand, the recent polls have also resulted in an increase in the representation of women MLAs. For the first time, 13 women will enter the assembly, and 11 of them belong to AAP. Five years ago, not more than five women could make it to Punjab Assembly.

Senior journalist Davinder Pal has told The Wire that the average age of lawmakers has considerably reduced this time around, as most of the MLAs earlier were in their 60s and 70s, including that of chief ministers.

“Now, we will have a chief minister in Bhagwant Mann who is under 50. Secondly, he comes from an ordinary family unlike the feudal background of the likes of Amarinder Singh and the Badals,” he adds.

Pal has also pointed to the fact that most new MLAs have had good education although they have low-profile politically.

“It is for the first time in the history of Punjab that the state assembly will have as many as 12 doctors,  and nine of whom are from AAP. These include Dr Charanjit Singh (who defeated incumbent chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi), Dr Baljit Kaur (Malout) and Dr Vijay Singla (Mansa).”

With this marked shift in terms of the composition of the new assembly, many believe Punjab politics is in for a change – from the influence of money and muscle power that dominated politics in the state for long. In some sense, the state has been infamous for political appointments, where MLAs earlier appointed their loyalists to the posts of SHOs, SSPs, Patwaris, Tehsildars and even DCs. AAP CM-designate did refer to this in his numerous public addresses during campaigning.

“This was the reason why the rule of law often remained compromised in Punjab, legitimising corruption and other wrongdoings. The new AAP government must change this trend and allow the rule of law to prevail,” says Pal.

The senior journalist believes that the Punjab election verdict has a “deeper meaning” in the sense that it has completely rejected “Congress’s identity politics, BJP’s polarisation attempts, and money and muscle power of the Akalis”.

“Punjabi voters upheld the spirit of Punjabiyat rooted in oneness and openness. This is the vote for hope and development. AAP must rise up to it and make way for new politics.”

Prominent faces in new AAP government 

While the majority of newly-elected MLAs in the AAP are low profile, there are many who emerged prominent due to their organisational and political skills.

For instance, Harpal Cheema, MLA from Dirba, has been a close confidant of Arvind Kejriwal. He has been the party’s floor leader for over three years under the outgoing Congress government. Winning for the second time with a huge margin of over 50,000 voes, Cheem is most likely to get a plump posting in the new government.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters celebrate as the party heads to a landslide victory in the Punjab Assembly elections, in Amritsar, Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo: PTI.

Aman Arora, AAP’s co-president of Punjab affairs, has gained status by getting the highest victory margin in 2022 Punjab polls by defeating his rival by over 75,000 votes from Sunam in Sangrur district. Considered close to AAP leaders in Delhi, he is also a likely face in Mann’s cabinet. Aman was earlier in the Congress before joining AAP in 2016 and since gained prominence in the party due to his close links with Bhagwant Mann and Delhi leaders.

Former co-convenor of AAP Dr Balbir Sidhu is among prominent names of the party who defeated Congress stalwart Brahm Mohindra’s son, Mohit Mohindra, with a handsome margin of 54,000 votes. He too may be inducted into Mann’s cabinet.

One name that has always received attention in the AAP circles is that of former IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap. He joined AAP last year after resigning from Punjab Police over the ‘sacrilege issue’. He may also find a place in Mann’s cabinet. He was the head of SIT (special investigation team) that indicted Badals for sacrilege. After his report fell flat in Punjab and Haryana high court, he quit his job alleging that the then Congress government did not defend the case properly.

In 2022 polls, he not only won the Amritsar North seat with more than 28,000 votes but also defeated former minister Anil Joshi, a former BJP leader who was projected as a Hindu face by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in this Assembly election.

As far as the party’s young brigade is concerned, there are several faces. Prominent among them are Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer from Barnala, Harjot Singh Bains from Anandpur Sahib and Dinesh Kumar Chadha from Rupnagar. They defeated their rivals by over 37,622, 45,780 and 23,632 votes respectively.

One of them may find a slot in Mann’s cabinet. Among women faces of AAP, Sarvjit Kaur Manuke retained her seat Jagraon in Ludhiana district by defeating SR Kaler of SAD by over 39,656 votes while another prominent woman face of the party Prof Baljinder Kaur defeated SAD’s heavyweight Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu from Talwandi Sabo by 15,252 votes.

A giant killer among AAP’s women candidates is Jeevanjyot Kaur who defeated Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and SAD’s Bikram Majithia by a margin of 6,750 votes

AAP’s sweet revenge 

Before 2022 polls, as many as eight AAP MLAs defected to Congress. Three of them were given tickets by Congress for this election. Except for Sukhpal Khaira (Bholath), Rupinder Kaur Ruby (Malout), Jagtar Singh Jagga Hissowal (Jagraon) were lost to AAP candidates by big margins.

Apart from this, Ashu Banger (Ferozepur Rural) who shifted loyalties from AAP to Congress too bit the dust. He was AAP’s candidate from Ferozepur rural but created a sensation by joining Congress later and charged AAP leaders of indulging in “selling tickets and minting money”. He lost to the AAP candidate by over 50,000 votes.

Mann to take oath on March 16 

AAP CM-designate Bhagwant Mann will take the oath of the office of chief minister on March 16 in Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahr district. Khatkar Kalan is the ancestral village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh whom Mann idealised soon after he joined politics in 2011.

AAP leader Bhagwant Mann meets Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and stakes claim to form government in Punjab, at Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh. Photo: PTI.

He is often spotted wearing Basanti (yellow) coloured turban – a colour often associated with Bhagat Singh. In his victory speech, he even announced that all government offices in Punjab will only have Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s picture instead of the chief minister’s that has been trend here for a long,

On Friday, he chaired the AAP Legislative Party meeting where he asked newly-elected MLAs to remain true to Bhagat Singh’s ideology. He told his new colleagues not to become arrogant and respect even those who didn’t vote for the party. He also told them to spend more time in their constituencies than in Chandigarh (Punjab’s capital)

On Saturday, March 12, he met Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit in Chandigarh and staked claim to form the government. He handed over the letter of support from his party MLAs.

After the meeting, Mann told reporters outside the Raj Bhawan, “We staked the claim to form the government and the governor sahib approved it.”


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