Winning 77 of the 117 state assembly seats, the Amarinder Singh led Congress on Saturday stormed to power in Punjab riding a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling SAD-BJP combine and warding off a spirited challenge by newcomer AAP.
The party put up its second best performance in the state. In the 1992 state elections, it had won 87 seats. With 77 MLAs it now just one seat short of a two third majority.
In addition, Congress on Saturday also won the bypoll to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
The SAD-BJP alliance finished at number three spot in the state polls, behind AAP, which contesting its first Punjab assembly elections emerged as the largest opposition party with 20 seats.
However, the number fell way short of Arvind Kejriwal’s claim of winning 100 seats.
The Prakash Singh Badal led SAD won 15 seats, down from its earlier tally of 56 seats while ally BJP bagged three seats against the 12 it had won in 2012.
A pre-poll ally of AAP, the Lok Insaaf Party, contested five seats and won two of them.
At a packed press conference here, a beaming Amarinder Singh, who was the Congress’ chief ministerial face, declared that tackling drug menace would be a top priority for his government.
The issue of drug abuse, especially by the youth in the state, was repeatedly raked by the opposition parties to attack the ruling SAD-BJP.
Not known for sparing opponents, Singh who turned 75 today, hit out at the SAD claiming it had brought the state “down to its knees” and mocked Kejriwal saying he was like a “summer storm that had come and gone”.
Singh, lost the Lambi seat where he contested against Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal but won from the Patiala assembly seat where he defeated Gen (retd) J J Singh.
Improving its tally from 46 in 2012 to 77 now, the Congress also proved wrong the exit polls and predictions which had suggested a close fight between it and AAP.
AAP had pinned great hopes on Punjab polls, a state where it got four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The party was hoping for major gains in the Malwa belt, which has bulk 69 seats, but it did not materialise.
“We accept the people’s mandate. All volunteers worked hard. Our struggle will continue,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Accepting the humbling verdict, five-time Chief Minister and Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal (89) said he would be submitting his resignation to the Governor here tomorrow.
For the Congress, the icing on the cake was victory in the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat bypoll where its candidate G S Aujla defeated nearest rival R S Chhina of BJP by 1,99,189 votes.