OVERWHELMED!” a beaming Amarinder Singh exulted as he emerged from his room on the first floor of his Chandigarh home, a little past noon on March 11. Even though early trends had been positive, the man who is now Punjab’s new chief minister refrained from celebrating victory until Congress’s leads firmly edged past 66—the number he had predicted for the party through the anxious 35 days between polling on February 4 and the results. But two hours on, the final tally—77 out of 117 assembly seats—exceeded his wildest expectations. And it was unprecedented. Never in the history of elections in Punjab has the Congress achieved such a spectacular victory, taking close to two-thirds (65.8 per cent) of the total seats.
After losing two successive elections—in 2007 and 2012—to the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, Amarinder has succeeded in crafting a formidable election campaign that brought the party clear leads across the three geographical regions of Punjab. Virtually sweeping Majha with 22 of the 25 seats, and taking 15 of the 23 Doaba constituencies, the Congress also recorded its biggest ever success, winning 40 of the 69 seats in the electorally significant Malwa region.
The euphoria outside Amarinder’s Chandigarh home