Elections 2014: AAP to spoil Modi`s party in Punjab?

Exit polls have suggested that the BJP-led NDA coalition is set to return to power in India led by its prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi, ending a decade of Congress-led rule.

Kamna Arora

The country`s most bitterly fought General Election has ended. Exit polls have suggested that the BJP-led NDA coalition is set to return to power in India led by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, ending a decade of Congress-led rule.

As far as Punjab is concerned, which voted in single phase on April 30, the Aam Aadmi Party is expected to make its presence felt, said the exit polls. The News24 poll suggested that the AAP, which was at the helm of affairs in Delhi for 49 days, could emerge as the single largest party in Punjab, winning five of the 13 seats, while others gave it no seats at all.

The Times Now-ORG poll suggests that Congress is likely to win six seats (two less than its 2009 figure), and BJP to win seven (two more than 2009 figure). CNN-IBN gave Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance six to nine seats out of 13.

Thanks to anti-Badal sentiment, the Congress in the northern state is not being wiped out.

In 2009, the Congress had won eight of the 13 seats.

Out of a total 1.95 crore electorate, 70% voters exercised their franchise in the state this election. In the 2009 General Elections, Punjab had recorded 70.1 percent polling.

Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), led by Parkash Singh Badal and his clan, had declared all 10 candidates for upcoming Lok Sabha elections. SAD (Badal) had left three seats - Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur - for its ally BJP.
Amritsar witnessed a battle between senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. For Jaitley, who replaced sitting party MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, the election from Amritsar was his first foray into electoral politics after the 1970s when he had contested and won Delhi University student elections.

Sidhu, who did not even exercise his franchise this time, was not given the Amritsar Lok Sabha ticket after the cricketer-turned-politician started criticised Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal. He had openly slammed the Punjab government, ruining his own chance to contest from the BJP ticket. Sidhu was elected from Amritsar thrice - two General Elections in 2004 and 2009 and one by-election in 2007.

The contest between the BJP veteran and the `Maharaja of Patiala` is surely one of the most interesting battles this election season.

Besides Amarinder, the other bigwigs fielded by Congress in Punjab were Sunil Kumar Jakhar, the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, as its candidate for the state`s Ferozepur seat and former union minister Ambika Soni for the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat.

Satirist-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann had parted ways with People`s Party of Punjab (PPP) to join the AAP.

Congress and Manpreet Singh Badal-led PPP have announced an alliance to fight the upcoming polls. Manpreet took on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal`s daughter-in-law and sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur from Bathinda constituency. Congress contested the rest 12 Lok Sabha seats.
Notably, Bhatinda was probably the only seat where Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Congress campaigned for the same candidate - Manpreet Singh Badal.

The CPI had extended support to Manpreet, the estranged nephew of Parkash Singh Badal and former finance minister in the SAD-BJP government, unconditionally. Dr Joginder Dayal, a member of the Central Executive Committee CPI, had cleared that there is no alliance with the Congress and claimed that the Sanjha Morcha still existed. The Sanjha Morcha, a conglomerate of Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP), SAD (Barnala), CPI and CPI (M) was floated ahead of the last Assembly Elections in 2012.

The failure of SAD-BJP alliance to keep the promise of enhancing the social security pension may prove to be the major disaster in the upcoming polls. In 2007 manifesto, the government had promised to hike the pension from Rs 250 per month to Rs 400. Since the government failed to fulfil the promise, it was again made a part of 2012 manifesto and this time the beneficiaries were promised Rs 500 per month. However, reports say it won`t brighten up the chances of the SAD-BJP combine as the amount is not paid on time.

The government`s failure to provide free tablet PCs to students, as promised in the last election manifesto, will also prove to be detrimental.

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