TCPD Columns

Decoding Regional Strongholds in Punjab


The state of Punjab is classified into the three sub-regions of Malwa, Majha and Doaba, both geographically and politically. Their demographics have played a key role in electoral outcomes. This article examines various parties’ electoral performance in these sub-regions in the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections. I use the TCPD-IED dataset to look at the seat shares and vote shares of parties across the three sub-regions.

Majha, Malwa and Doaba

The word ‘Majha’ means centre. Majha constituted the central part of Punjab before the partition. It is considered the birthplace of Sikhism and referred to as the ‘panthic belt’. It covers the land between the rivers Ravi and Beas. In present-day Punjab, the districts of Amritsar, Pathankot, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur are part of it. The region It has 25 seats in the state assembly. In the 2017 assembly elections, the INC washas been the dominant party in this region both in terms of in terms of both vote share and seat share. 

Malwa covers land to the left of the Satluj river. More than half of Punjab’s area falls within it. Being the largest region in the state, it has 69 assembly seats. In the 2017 assembly elections, INC won nearly 60% of the seats, followed by AAP, which won 26%. 

The land between Satluj and Beas is called Doaba. It is famously called the ‘NRI belt’ of the state as it sends a large number of immigrants to the West. This region Interestingly, it also has the highest proportion of Dalits in the state. It has 23 assembly seats. In 2017, INC won 65% of seats in the region, but there was no single dominant party in vote share. 

Sub-region wise seat share and vote share in the 2012 and 2017 Assembly Elections

Figures 1 and 2 below show the share of seats won by the major  all the parties, sub-region wise in the 2012 and 2017 aAssembly eElections, respectively. Figures 3 and& 4 show the distribution of votes among the parties in the three regions in 2012 and 2017, respectively. 

In 2012, SAD and INC had a significant presence in all three regions. BJP had a limited presence in Malwa and none in Majha and Doaba. While INC’s seat share increased in 2017 in all regions, SAD witnessed its presence saw its dominance shrinkdisappear, most drastically in Majha and Malwa. In 2017, AAP registered a noticeable presence in all three regions, but most significantly in Malwa. It is plausible  shows that AAP may have gained from SAD’s seat share reduction in Majha and Malwa. BJP, on the other hand, saw its seat share completely disappear in Majha in 2017.  

Figure 1Figure 2
Figure 3Figure 4

Despite having only 27% vote share in 2012 in Doaba, SAD converted its votes into seats as it won nearly half of the seats in Doaba. In all the regions in 2012, the seat share of SAD was greater than its vote share. On the other hand, INC had a 37% vote share in Doaba but could win only 25% of the seats. INC was more successful in converting the vote share in Malwa (41%) into seat share (45%) compared to other regions. 

The situation for SAD reversed in 2017 partly due to the anti-incumbency sentiments. It had only a 4% seat share in Majha despite having a 26% vote share. Though its vote share in Doaba in 2017 was not much different from 2012, it could win only 22% of the seats compared to 48% in 2012. There was not much change in its vote share for INC, yet its seat share saw a considerable jump in all regions and significantly in Doaba and Majha. 

AAP made an impressive entry in the 2017 elections by converting its vote share into a nearly equal share in seats won across all three regions. A large part of AAP’s vote share seems to have come from the drop in votes to SAD and others. BJP did not see any significant change in its share of votes in Majha and Malwa, but its share in Doaba dropped. Despite getting a 10% vote share in Majha, BJP could not win a single seat in Majha. 


Analysis of the seat share in both the elections shows drastic gains and losses in seat share between 2012 and 2017. SAD, which won the 2012 assembly election by a considerable margin, lost badly in 2017 in all regions. The distribution of vote share in 2017 shows voters are divided across all parties in all regions, with no single party having a majority vote share in any of the regions. Further analysis of AAP’s victory in the 2022 elections can add to the understanding how the sub-regions of Punjab affect electoral outcomes in the state.


  1. “TCPD Indian Elections Data v2.0″, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University.
  2. Ananay Agarwal, Neelesh Agrawal, Saloni Bhogale, Sudheendra Hangal, Francesca Refsum Jensenius, Mohit Kumar, Chinmay Narayan, Basim U Nissa, Priyamvada Trivedi, and Gilles Verniers. 2021.


Krishna Priya Choragudi is a Research Scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi


I thank Prof. C N Kumar, Panjab University, Chandigarh for useful comments and feedback.