Polling officials with EVMs leave for their respective polling booths on the eve of polling day in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly, in Amritsar, on February 19, 2022. (Pawan Sharma/IANS)

Polling officials with EVMs leave for their respective polling booths on the eve of polling day in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly, in Amritsar, on February 19, 2022. (Pawan Sharma/IANS)

Does Punjab want a change?

New Delhi, February 19, 2022

"The Congress has weakened and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has succeeded in creating a noise in Punjab" is how a colleague summarised his assessment of the assembly elections on his return from the state that goes to the polls on Sunday.

He went on to say that there was a noise for the AAP in 2017, too, but the Congress was strong then and that had enabled it to regain power from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine after 10 years.

The AAP has claimed that there is a yearning for change in its favour this time but the Congress is hoping that there will be a repeat of 2017 when it comfortably won the elections.

The grand old party is also banking on the Dalit consolidation due to its move to replace Captain Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister with Charanjit Singh Channi five months ago.

But in Punjab so far, the Dalits have never voted as a bloc and then there are Deras (socio-religious institutions that wield enormous political influence in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi).

A section of Jat Sikhs is upset with the Congress for appointing Channi as Amarinder's replacement. He is the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab.

While the Congress considers the AAP its main challenger, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance is hoping to regain some of its lost ground and the BJP-Amarinder combine is banking on the Hindu consolidation.

In 2017, the AAP had fared better in Malwa than Majha and Doaba regions. Malwa has 69 of the 117 constituencies while Majha and Doaba account for 25 and 23 seats, respectively.

However, AAP convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is treading cautiously this time to ensure that there isn't a repeat of 2017.

On the other hand, the Congress is hit by infighting and the rebel factor. After Rahul Gandhi announced Channi as the face of the party, state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu is on a warpath. His cryptic tweets and subtle statements against Channi and the visible anguish for not being named the CM candidate could prove damaging for the party in the end.

Besides, the move to win over the Scheduled Caste votes by making Channi the first Dalit chief minister of the state isn't getting the expected response. The "poor Dalit" image created for Channi, who is contesting on two seats, Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur, too, isn't finding many takers on the ground. To add to the Congress' woes, his remark about “bhaiyas” from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar might prove counter-productive.

On the other hand, the Akali Dal is said to have regained some of the lost ground. One reason for that could be the victim card it has effectively played, insisting that there was nothing against the party on the drugs or the sacrilege issues and asking why no charges were proved by the previous government.

But an Akali Dal resurgence isn't good news for the AAP. If it happens, the Congress could be a gainer. Is this revival enough for Bikram Singh Majithia to defeat Sidhu from Amritsar East will be known later.

In Congress circles, there are some who talk about a possible alliance with the Akali Dal to keep the AAP away in the event of a hung assembly.

Politics is the art of the possible and nothing can be ruled out. The alliance between the Congress and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra or the BJP's tie-up with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir are some of the examples of the impossible becoming possible.

Whether it happens or not will be known on March 10, the day results will be declared.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NetIndian and NetIndian does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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