Punjab Assembly Elections: Will 69 seats, Malwa region holds key

Chandigarh: The Malwa region of Punjab which has 69 assembly constituencies – more than half of the total 117 seats in the state – and thus has been the focal area for all the political majors, has forced them to go the extra mile this election time.

Reason? The emergence and consistent groundwork of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which in its maiden election in 2017 won 18 seats in the Malwa region and now the entry of a new player, Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, a farmers’ outfit led by Balbir Singh Rajewal, which has a major influence in over 1,500 villages of farmers having small landholdings.

Rajewal is one of the main farmers’ leaders who led the farmers from Punjab during the farmers’ stir against the now-repealed farm laws. Rajewal led-SSM has now taken a plunge into politics ahead of this election announcing that it would contest all the 117 seats in the state.

Till 2017, the Malwa region was considered to be a traditional stronghold of the Akalis as the Badals represented this region. However, the entry of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab in 2017 led to the Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD’s) seats shrinking to eight and the Congress winning 40 seats. The AAP bagged 18 seats from the region, mainly from Mansa, Sangrur, and Barnala districts of the Malwa region, two from the Doaba region and none from the Majha.

There are three geographical regions in Punjab and the Malwa covering southern Punjab has 15 districts, Doaba, the region between Beas and Sutlej rivers, and the Majha region, on the north-west bordering Pakistan.

The Doaba region with four districts and 23 constituencies has a Scheduled Caste (SC) population ranging from 25% to 75%. It has been a Congress citadel as it gave it 15 seats in 2017, five to SAD and two to the AAP.

After snapping ties with its old ally BJP last year over farm laws, the SAD has stitched an alliance with the BSP with an eye to cut into the SC vote bank, though the move has been blunted by the Congress which gave Punjab its first Dalit chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi in September last year.

Majha region which has also four districts and 25 assembly constituencies has also been a mix of the SAD and Congress belt. The Congress won 22 seats, and the SAD was marginalised to two in 2017.