If the local study and survey to be believed, then there is absolutely no chance for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in Punjab. Only AAP’s electoral prospects look better in the state. The importance of this time’s election in Punjab can be stated in just one line. It will separate the contenders for 2019 elections from the pretenders. Congress can win good seats but AAP will secure majority. History gives us enough evidence that any contender eyeing India had to first conquer and pass through Punjab. For those, who consider an election as a modern-day equivalent to warfare, this state still holds the same importance.
Its result will decide the fate of two men and two political parties, those eyeing for an opportunity to rise up and challenge the BJP in the next general election — Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi and their party AAP and Congress respectively.
Punjab is important state as out of five states which is going in polls between January and March, Congress and AAP’s winning chances are more here. Ten years of anti-incumbency and the simmering anger against corruption, drug mafia and dynastic rule have put the BJP-SAD government in a tight corner. Moreover, demonetization and farmers’ suicide created bad omen for the alliance. On current evidence, only a miracle arising out of a triangular contest would be able to rescue the Parkash Singh Badal and his heir apparent, the man ruling Punjab from behind the veil — his son Sukhbir Singh Badal.
For the Congress, a victory in Punjab would be the first sign of hope since it went into coma after the advent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the scene. In 2013, since it lost Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh, the Congress has managed to win only in Karnataka. However, in Punjab, Congress is a strong contender, primarily because of a combination of favourable factors. That the Congress is still an acceptable option in Punjab was apparent even in 2014, when inspite of getting wiped out across India, it managed to won three seats and nearly 34 per cent votes, almost double of its national average.
Though, it has been a roller-coaster ride for the party, the Congress has managed to remain in the hunt in Punjab for two reasons: Rahul Gandhi’s decision to give Captain Amarinder Singh free hand in Punjab. The biggest gain, of course, for the Congress would be Kejriwal’s defeat, effectively ending the Delhi chief minister’s plan to venture out of Delhi and acquire a national image for him. For the past few months, Kejriwal has been trying to emerge as the second party in states where the Congress has had a strong presence. The rise of Amarinder Singh, the fracas with Sucha Singh Chhotepur, the inept handling of the Navjot Singh Sidhu episode — who was left out in the cold after quitting the BJP — and the growing perception of AAP being a party without a Sikh face have set its campaign back. Though, Kejriwal claims his party would win 100 out of the 117 seats in the Assembly, his claim appears more as motor mouth than elemental.
More than the BJP, the Congress has been under existential threat because of AAP’s efforts to occupy the anti-BJP space in central and north India. A loss in Punjab, would effectively cut Kejriwal mid-flight and give Congress the opportunity to challenge the BJP in Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh.
For Kejriwal, who appeared to be the front-runner in Punjab till recently, the election is a defining moment of the short but tumultuous life? When he contested elections in Delhi, he was seen as an outsider who wanted to disrupt the existing system. Even if he would have failed to win in Delhi, he would have received more chances to prove his acceptability. After the huge victory of Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi 2015 Vidhan Sabha elections winning 67 out of 70 wards, it has decided to contest the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections in 2017 also.
Punjab will decide AAP or Congress’s future. Many projects in Punjab are on the verge of completion and people have started to realize that there is no power and water shortage, better roads, good law and order, new airports and flyovers, no delayed government salaries and many populist schemes like atta-dal. SAD-BJP has a silent vote bank that doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook much. The only competitor is Congress. It got highest vote share in Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 i.e. 33 per cent, but they won only three seats. Congress too can surprise like they did in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar in the 2014 general elections. AAP’s vote shares of 4 to 5 per cent can swing towards Congress too.
There are other speculations that, both Congress and SAD-BJP will get around 45 seats. Then AAP will decide whom to support. The party has lost the plot already but still good enough to win 20 odd seats with around 20 per cent vote share. There are chances of Congress-AAP forming a government in Punjab.
I hope the best party who convince the voters and can deliver should be the winner. I appealed to voters to franchise your votes for the party which can win with clear majority.
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