When the campaign for the Assembly elections began in Punjab in early 2016, the Badals became the focus of the Opposition. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal were called “textbook examples” of corrupt politicians by the Aam Aadmi Party, whose leader Arvind Kejriwal had vowed to send them to jail if the people gave his party the mandate.
As predicted by exit polls, the Shiromai Akali Dal did face a heavy defeat on Saturday, with the Congress all set to win a big majority in Punjab. However, the Badals have managed to win their respective seats.
In Lambi, the senior Badal defeated Congress chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh by a margin of 22,770 votes. In 2012, he had won the seat by just over 23,000 votes. He has held the seat continuously since 1997.
In Jalalabad, Sukbhir Singh Badal managed to beat anti-incumbency and AAP’s poster boy Bhagwant Singh Mann by a margin of 18,500 votes.
In Majitha, Sukbhir Singh Badal’s brother-in-law, Bikram Singh Majithia, who the AAP had accused of having a hand in Punjab’s notorious drug mafia, won by 22,884 votes.
For the Badals, these wins have come as a big face saver. In the run up to the elections, Punjab was agog with rumours that Sukbhir Badal could be made chief minister if the party wins. Even if they lost, the junior Badal was expected to take complete control of the party given the age of his father, who turns 90 next year.
However, for this transition to take place smoothly, it was important that the Badals won their constituencies to show that they still had public support. Given that they have successfully emerged victorious, despite an anti-incumbency wave, any challenge to their hold on the SAD has become difficult now.