The battle for Punjab may just turn out to be a two-horse race with pollsters favoring the AAP over the Congress in many cases, CNN-News18’s ‘poll of polls’ showed on Friday. The polls pitched incumbent CM Charanjit Singh Channi against the AAP’s chief ministerial face Bhagwant Mann. But it could also be a scenario where no one party will get a clear majority and may need help from others to form the government.
Pollsters have recorded opinion on the performance of four major contenders — Congress, AAP, Shiromani Akali Dal, and the BJP in alliance with Captain Amarinder Singh’s new party Punjab Lok Congress. The faces for the parties are Channi, Mann, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh, respectively. The halfway mark for any party to gain majority is 59.
Nonetheless, the opinion polls predicted that the performance of the four parties in the politically influential and active Malwa region will be a decisive factor in the results.
2017 results: The Congress came to power with a resounding majority and 77 seats, while the AAP delivered only on 20 seats despite the hype. Ousted from power, the Akalis won 15 seats while its then alliance partner, the BJP, won three. The tenure of the current Punjab Assembly ends on March 27, 2022.
ABP NEWS-C VOTER: Congress 37-43, AAP 52-58, SAD 17-23, BJP 1-3
INDIA AHEAD-ETG: Congress 40-44, AAP 59-64, SAD 8-11, BJP 1-2
REPUBLIC-P MARQ: Congress 42-48, AAP 50-56, SAD 13-17, BJP 1-3
NEWSX-POLSTRAT: Congress 40-45, AAP 47-52, SAD 22-26, BJP 1-2
TIMES NOW-VETO: Congress 41-47, AAP 54-58, SAD 11-15, BJP 1-3
INDIA NEWS-JAN KI BAAT: Congress 32-42, AAP 58-65, SAD 15-18, BJP 1-2
ZEE-DESIGNBOXED: Congress 35-38, AAP 36-39, SAD 32-35, BJP 4-7
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND
Seeing as Channi and Mann both belong to the Malwa region in Punjab, the too-close-to-call battle in the assembly elections may just be decided by the performance of these two parties in this belt. This belt has given five chief ministers to the state in Channi, Captain Amarinder Singh, Akali veteran Parkash Singh Badal, as well as two former Congress CMs.
Caste equations may also play out, even in a Sikh-dominated state. The AAP may have an advantage in the Malwa region as it performed well in this pocket even in the 2017 elections. Mann, AAP’s CM face, is also from this belt being the Sangrur MP.
In the Malwa belt, Dalits are influential voters. In the urban areas of Punjab, however, such as Mohali, there is a clear dominance of Jat Sikhs. But it is the Dalit Sikhs who have always been the swing factor seeing as the Jat Sikhs are evenly split between Congress and Akalis.
There are, however, some big questions when it comes to the contest in Punjab. When it comes to the Congress, infighting and incumbency are major worries even as the in-house feud plays out between Channi and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who have both staked a claim to the CM’s face.
The AAP may be ahead but is short of majority. Keeping its abysmal performance in the previous elections, it may be too early to say if the AAP can finally live up to its hype.
When it comes to Captain Amarinder Singh, who stamped his majority in the previous elections, it is basically a test of clout without his Congress cadre this time. He is also in alliance with the BJP, known to be a party walking on thorns in the Sikh-dominated state. The election also comes after the year-long farmers’ protests, which resulted in the breakup of long-time allies SAD and BJP.
For the SAD, it is a matter of survival. With the Akalis nowhere in the picture, this will be a massive challenge for the party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. The Akalis are weaker than before and losing this election would be a death knell for the party not present anywhere else in India.
AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, who announced the final list of AAP candidates for the Punjab polls on Friday, said, “Opinion polls are only directional in nature, and we still have 30 days to go. But I am satisfied that after its abysmal performace in 2017, the AAP has managed to capture the public imagination this time. As far as I know, we are the only party to announce a formal CM face. The Congress is divided with an ongoing in-house wrestlemania. Voters are saying they’ll not vote for traditional parties. But the AAP could not have imagined there’ll be such a groundswell of support. Even in Doaba and Majha, where the AAP was weak last time, we are doing very well.”