Punjab Elections – 4 and last

Snippets from the History

Initially in pre-partition undivided Punjab an Executive Council was formed under The Indian Councils Act, 1861. But the formation of the Legislature had to wait till the Government of India Act 1919 came into being.  The Punjab State Assembly was constituted with a strength of 175 members. It was summoned for the first time on 1 April 1937. In 1947, Punjab was partitioned into West Punjab and East Punjab. Subsequently, the East Punjab Legislative Assembly was formed, the forerunner of the current assembly, consisting of 72 members.

On 15 July 1948, eight princely states of East Punjab were grouped together to form a single state, Patiala and East Punjab State Unions (PEPSU). The Punjab State Legislature was a bicameral in April 1952, comprising the Vidhan Sabha or the lower House and the Vidhan Parishad, the upper House. In 1956 the state was reorganized and renamed Punjab, the strength of the Vidhan Parishad of the new State of Punjab was enhanced from 40 seats to 46 seats and in 1957, it was increased to 51. Punjab was reorganized in 1966.The Vidhan Parishad was reduced the 40 seats and the Vidhan Sabha by 50 seats to 104 seats. On January 1, 1970, the Vidhan Parishad was abolished leaving the state with a unicameral legislature.

The Punjab Legislative Assembly came into existence after Independence. The first assembly elections were held in 1952. The strength of the Punjab Legislative Assembly had been changing as the State went for a major reorganization in 1966 when Haryana and Chandigarh were carved out of this border state on November 1, 1966.  Starting with 126 members in 1952, its strength went up to 154 in 1962. But after 1966 reorganization it was reduced to 104. But in 1977, the strength of the Assembly was raised to its present strength of 117.  After the last delimitation, elections to next Punjab Vidhan Sabha were held with reorganized constituencies. 

After Independence, Gopi Chand Bhargava became the first Chief Minister of Punjab. In fact, he had three terms as Chief Minister, the first one from August 15, 1947, to April 13, 1949. His third and last term from June 21 to July 6, 1964, was the shortest.

No other Congress leader took oath as Chief Minister three times. 

Parkash Singh Badal became the first non-Congress Chief Minister to complete a full five-year term in office between 1997 and 2002. Now he is the only non-Congress Chief Minister to complete three full terms in office. Other than him, only Partap Singh Kairon (Congress) had two consecutive terms in office. Partap Singh Kairon remained Chief Minister from January 23, 1956, to June 21, 1964.

Between August 15,1947 and now, of 25 Chief Ministers the State had, eight belong to Shiromani Akali Dal and remaining 17 to Congress. Punjab also remained under President’s Rule for eight times, the first being from June 20,1951 to April 17,1952, and last one was the longest that lasted between June 11,19878 and February 25, 1992.

Interestingly, of 17 Congress Chief Ministers in Punjab, only three – Partap Singh Kairon (1957-62), Giani Zail Singh (1972-77) and Amarinder Singh (2002-07) – completed full five-year term in office. 

Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (January 21,1996 to February 12, 1997) had the distinction of becoming the first woman Chief Minister of Punjab.

Now Charanjit Singh Channi (September, 2021) has a feather to his cap as he is the first Dalit Chief Minister of Punjab.

In the election to Punjab Vidhan Sabha held in 2007. SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal) won 48 seats in the house. The INC (Indian National Congress) was little behind with 44 seats while the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) came third with 19 seats. SAD and BJP joined to form a coalition government. In fact, SAD had fielded 93 candidates whereas the INC contested 116 seats. The BJP fielded 23 candidates.

Of 56 women candidates, only seven were elected in 2007.  The polling was conducted on February 13, 2007, and the results were declared on February 27, 2007. 

In the 2002 elections, Congress did well to get clear majority as it managed to win 62 seats while SAD ended up with 42. In the 1997 assembly elections SAD had won 75 seats while in the 1992 elections when the main Akali Dal boycotted the polls. Congress won 87 seats. This is the biggest tally of Congress in the history of Punjab. Of the two seats won by a faction of Akali Dal, one was of Amarinder Singh who was elected unopposed from Samana while he finished a poor third from Kharar and lost his security deposit to Harnek Singh Gharuan of Congress.

In the 2012 elections, Congress failed to wrest back power as it could win only 46 seats against 68 by the Shiromani Akali Dal. The chain of alternate governments by Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress was broken for the first time since 1966. And the Shiromani Akali Dal formed the government for the second consecutive term in 2012.

In 2017, Congress, despite the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was back in the saddle by returning 77 MLAs against 20 of the AAP and only 18 of the SAD-BJP alliance.