The decimation of the Badals and with them, of the BJP, as collateral damage is almost on expected lines.
The mood within Punjab was of complete revulsion for the Badal brand of dole, dera and dynasty politics. Everywhere in Punjab, people were voting with just one intention--to boot the SAD-BJP alliance out.
That mood is reflected in the exit poll results that suggest the Badals are being wiped out and their tally may not enter double figures. If that happens and one of the two rival parties — the AAP and the Congress — gets a clear majority, the Badals would become politically insignificant in their bastion.
Their only chance of remaining relevant lies in a hung assembly. In case of a fractured verdict, the SAD-BJP numbers could become crucial for formation of the next government.
If the AAP loses Punjab, it will have only itself to blame. The stage was set for a major AAP victory in Punjab just a year ago. But, the AAP leaders fought within themselves and allowed the Congress to get back into reckoning.
A year before elections, when the AAP held its rally at the Maghi Mela, its tent had the biggest crowd, beating the other two rivals by a huge margin. In Punjab, Maghi melas are considered the next big thing to pre-poll surveys, the crowds that gather there are considered reliable indicators of the political mood. A year ago, convinced by the crowd, analysts thought the BJP had it made.
But the AAP went through a major implosion in the first half of 2016, leading to the expulsion of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur. Later, the AAP had a fall-out with Navjot Singh Sidhu. whose inclusion would have given it momentum and an acceptable Sikh face.
'Only consensus is on Akalis/BJP in single digits'
Exit polls totally confused on Punjab. Cong could win, AAP could win or Assembly is hung. Only consensus is on Akalis/BJP in single digits.
If Congress wins, credit should go to Amarinder Singh
If Congress wins Punjab, it would primarily be the result of local heavyweight Captain Amarinder Singh's popularity. A year before the campaign in Punjab began, pre-poll surveys were predicting a landslide for the AAP and a bleak future for the Congress.
But, things began to change after the Congress leadership decided to sideline its existing leadership and give a free hand to Captain. This coincided with the infighting between the local AAP leadership, leading to a shift in the momentum.
The Congress benefitted also from Navjot Singh Sidhu's decision to join the party just ahead of elections. Sidhu's popularity in his backyard Amritsar may have helped the Congress notch up a few more seats in a keenly-contested election.
All said, the result in Punjab, if it favours the Congress, would be an indication of the personal popularity of the Captain-Singh combine instead of reflection of the party's Central leadership.
Meanwhile, follow LIVE updates on Manipur Election 2017 exit poll predictions here.
Today's Chanakya exit poll has predicted 54 seats for Congress and the same number of seats for AAP, which would result in a hung Assembly. SAD-BJP combine will get only 9 seats, according to the poll.
The suspense in Punjab continues even after the exit polls that can't decide who will form the government there. The average of polls suggests both the Congress and the AAP are within striking distance and may win around 55 seats in the 117-member assembly.
The likely reason for the inconclusive results in Punjab is that the two main contenders — AAP and Congress — have well-defined areas of influence and areas of weakness.
The AAP is expected to do well in Malwa that has 69 seats. But it is not expected to make inroads in the remaining 48 seats divided between Majha and Doaba. In these regions, the Congress is likely to sweep the elections.
In the end, the outcome would depend on how many seats the Congress manages to win in Malwa. The only result that is consistent with the mood on the ground is that the Akali-BJP alliance is getting wiped out.
CVoter predicts 59-67 seats for AAP+, 41-49 seats for Congress, 5-13 seats for SAD-BJP and 0-3 seats for other parties.
CNN-News18-Gramener predicts hung Assembly in Punjab
The Gramener exit poll predicted a very tight contest in Punjab with AAP+ winning 57 seats, Congress 53 seats, and SAD-BJP 7 seats.
Meanwhile, follow LIVE updates on the UP Election exit poll predictions here.
CVoter only exit poll to predict AAP victory in Punjab
The CVoter exit poll is the only one to predict an AAP victory in Punjab. It says that the party will win 59-67 seats in the state.
NDTV poll of exit polls also predicts Congress victory in Punjab
According to the poll of polls by NDTV, Congress will win 60 seats, AAP 50 seats, and SAD-BJP just 6 seats.
Congress will win 36 percent votes in Punjab: India Today-Axis My India exit poll
Congress is expected to win 36 percent vote share in Punjab, says the India Today-Axis My India exit poll. AAP will win 34 percent votes in the state. The BJP-SAD combine will be reduced to 17 percent while other parties will get 13 percent votes, according to the poll.
APP is leading in Punjab, says TimesNow VMR Exit Poll
The Aam Aadmi Party is likely to emerge as victorious in Punjab, the TimesNow VMR Exit Poll said predicting 61 seats for the party, followed by Congress with 48 seats. The SAD-BJP alliance is likely to get 7 seats, whereas it predicted zero seats for others.
TimesNow VMR Exit Poll
Congress will win Punjab, says India Today-Axis My India exit poll
According to India Today-Axis My India exit poll, Congress is predicted to win Punjab with 62-71 seats. SAD-BJP will get 4 to 7 seats. And AAP+ will get 42-51 seats. Others will get 0 to 2 seats.
What's punjab's mandate?
With 117 constituencies, 16 parties and 1145 candidates with independents included, the northwestern state of Punjab's mandate will become clear on 11 March. But before that happens, we have several exit polls that will be unveiling their predictions today. Stay tuned to get live updates on the Punjab Assembly Election 2017.
Punjab election exit poll predictions to begin from 5.30 pm
The two-month long Assembly elections in five states, marked by frequent name-calling, ended on Wednesday, with all eyes on the 11 March results that will be seen not only as a virtual referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity after demonetisation but also Aam Aadmi Party's relevance in two states.
In Punjab, 77.4 percent polling was witnessed on 4 February. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance is battling anti-incumbency while Amarinder Singh is leading the Congress bid to return to power after ten years in the 117-member state Assembly. AAP has made its maiden foray in the assembly elections, seeking to play a killjoy for the two major contenders for power.
There were a total of 1,145 candidates in the fray, with all the top-three contenders Congress, SAD-BJP alliance as well as AAP fielding 117 candidates. Also in the fray in Punjab are Communisty Party of India — Marxist (CPM), Communist Party of India — Marxist Liberation (CPI-ML), Aapna Punjab Party (APP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Punjab Front, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Punjab United (PU), Akali Dal (AD), Apna Punjab (AP), Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Party (JJJKP), Swabhiman Party (SP) and Janta Dal United (JDU).
Representational image. PTI
According to Firstpost's Sandipan Sharma, the Punjab election is all about "voting out the SAD-BJP government. Every voter is reacting to just three issues — drugs, doles and dhakka (hegemony and injustice of Badals and their cronies) politics. Voters want change and the exit of Badals".
The menace of drugs in Punjab is arguably the most important issue in the state which is unique to Punjab. An Aiims study had concluded that there were 837 opioid-dependents per 100,000 people in Punjab, or 0.84 percent of the state’s 28 million population. This alone is more than three times as much as the corresponding all-India figure for all types of drug dependents, based on a Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimate of three million drug dependents nationwide, which is 250 per 100,000, or 0.25 percent of the Indian population.
This fact alone shows the extent of the drug abuse problem in Punjab, and the extent to which Sukhbir Singh Badal had distorted the facts. Just the number of opioid-dependents in Punjab was estimated to be over three times the number for all types of drugs in the country.
There were a lot of political twists and turns right before the Punjab polls too. For example, there was a lot of outrage over Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's remark asking people to vote as if they were voting for Kejriwal. Sisodia's remarks created a political storm as politicians from other parties tried convincing people that this actually meant that Kejriwal was going to be the chief ministerial candidate of AAP for Punjab and that Kejriwal was going to relinquish his role as Delhi chief minister.
One of the most shocking statements came from Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had left the BJP for the Congress a few months back. During a Congress press conference, the flamboyant Sidhu began the presser by claiming, "I'm a born Congressman. My identity, from birth, is that of a Congressman. I owe my existence to Congress."
And of course, who can forget the moment when Amarinder Singh announced that Congress would launch a department called 'Guardians of Governance' if it came to power in the state?
Your guide to the latest seat tally, live updates, analysis and list of winners for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 542 constituencies on counting day of the general elections.