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Posted at: Nov 20, 2016, 12:31 AM; last updated: Nov 20, 2016, 11:10 AM (IST)PUNJAB ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS — 1967

A United Front pushes Congress to the Opposition Benches

After the 'division' of Punjab yet again, the number of Assembly seats decreased but the factions and fractions in political parties increased. Polarisation on communal lines emerged, as did coalition politics

Chandigarh, November 20, 2016

The first election after the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966 was a fiercely contested battle. The number of voters in Punjab was 63 lakh and they voted to elect members of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and 13 members of the Lok Sabha. Since before Partition, most political parties, with the exception of the Congress and Communist parties, were predominantly based on a single community, with some of them being overtly communal. The polarisation in the state politics in 1967 is evident when we see the manner in which various political parties gave nominations: The Jan Sangh nominated Hindus, the Akali Dal predominantly Sikhs, and the Republican Party largely confined itself to the Scheduled Castes candidates. Together, they formed the United Peoples Front.  

Part I Election series:  Punjab Assembly Elections 1951-52

Part II Election series: Punjab Assembly Elections — 1957

Part III Election series :  Punjab Assembly Elections — 1962

Part IV Election series :  Punjab Assembly Elections — 1967

Read more: 

In the reorganised Punjab, a majority of the voters was Sikh and the nominees reflected that. Thus CPI and CPI-M candidates too were Sikhs, as were a majority of those that the Congress fielded, even though the Congress did maintain its communally diverse character and was thus far more representative than any other party in the fray. 

The Congress faced many anti-incumbency factors and rising prices as well as shortage of essential items, including food. It contributed to the disenchantment with the ruling party.  The Punjabi Suba issue was still alive, and the Akali Dal cashed in on the formation of a Punjabi-speaking state. The issue of Chandigarh and other areas being included in Punjab, too, figured prominently. On the other hand, the Congress did not present a united front, and found itself on the back foot on the Punjabi Suba issue. It lost heavily, including its Chief Minister, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir.  

Eight women contested for the Vidhan Sabha, including Deputy Minister Parkash Kaur. The winners were:  Sarla Prasher (Nangal) and R Kaur (Patti). An interesting sidelight was in the Sangrur Parliamentary constituency where Mrs Nirlep Kaur contested on the Akali Dal (Sant) ticket against her father-in-law, sitting Congress MP Sardar Bahadur Ranjit Singh Akoi. Rajmata Mohinder Kaur, too, was in the fray from Patiala. Both won. Maharaja Yadvindra Singh of Patiala won as in independent with the largest margin. 

Although the Congress party won a simple majority with 48 seats, the constituents of the United Front - Akali Dal (Sant) 24; Akali Dal (Master 2; Jan Sangh 9; CPI 5; CPI(M) 3; Republican Party of India 3; SSP 1. Together with six Independent MLAs, they were to form the first non-Congress government in Punjab with Justice Gurnam Singh as Chief Minister. His tenure was short, and he was replaced by Lachman Singh Gill in November 1967.

The Congress, for the first time, now sat on the Opposition Benches. It was led by a person who had led the first non-Congress United Front government in PEPSU in 1952 as Chief Minister — Gian Singh Rarewala.


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