The Punjab Assembly Election 2017 has emerged as a close contest between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Indian National Congress with both parties having equal chances to win the election. Both parties emerged as the only two leading parties in the five exit polls that were unveiled on Thursday with the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party reduced to single digits.
A minimum 59 seats are required to form a government in the 117-seat Punjab Assembly. The election was believed to be a triangular contest between Congress, AAP and the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.
While the India Today-Axis My India poll predicted a clear majority for the Congress likely to win 62-71 seats followed by the Aam Aadmi Party at 42-51 seats, the Times Now-VMR and CVoter India predicted AAP as victorious winning 61 and 59-67 seats respectively. The two exit polls predicted 48 and 41-49 seats for Congress and 7 and 5-13 seats for the SAD-BJP alliance respectively.
The CVoter India exit poll also predicted 0-3 seats for other parties whereas the Times Now VMR predicted zero votes for Other parties. It seems like AAP national convener, Arvind Kejriwal and the party's relentless campaigning may pay off well in Punjab.
But at the same time, Captain Amarinder Singh may have given the Congress a fighting chance as three exit polls — Today's Chanakya, India News MRC and the CNN-News18-Gramener — predicted hung Assembly in Punjab. The India News MRC predicted 55 seats for both Congress and AAP whereas CNN-News18-Gramener predicted 57 seats for AAP, which is just two short of the minimum seats required to form the government with Congress predicted to win 53 seats. The Today's Chanakya Exit Poll predicted 54 seats for both Congress and AAP.
India News MRC predicted 0-2 seats for others whereas both Today's Chanakya and CNN-News18-Gramener predicted zero seats for others.
The incumbent SAD-BJP alliance was placed third winning just 4-7 seats by Times Now VRM and India Today-Axis My India exit polls whereas the India News-MRC and CNN-News18-Gramener put SAD-BJP at 7. The CVoter India predicted 5-13 seats for the incumbent alliance in Punjab, whereas Today's Chanakya put the numbers for SAD-BJP alliance at 9.
The exit poll results were slated to be unveiled on Wednesday but were postponed after the deaths of Chand Shekhar, the Samajwadi Party candidate from Alapur and Kanwasi, the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate in Karna Prayag.
|India Today-Axis My India||4-7||62-71||42-51||0-2|
|India News MRC||7||55||55||0-2|
Key parties and candidates
Punjab, which had mostly seen a contest between SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress over the last few decades, added a third front in the 2017 Assembly election with the entrance of Arvind Kejriwal's AAP. There were a total of 1,145 candidates in the fray, with alll 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).
The election saw several high-profile candidates from all the parties wooing candidates in Punjab including incumbent Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of SAD, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal from Jalalabad, Parkash Singh Bhatti from Balluna and Hardeep Singh 'Dimpy' Dhillon from Giddarbaha. SAD is fighting on 94 of the 117 seats while 23 seats have been given to the alliance partner, the BJP. Some of the high-profile candidates include Dinesh Singh Babbu, Ashwani Sharma, Seema Kumari, KD Bhandari and Sukhjeet Kaur Sahi.
Captain Amarinder Singh is the chief ministerial candidate for Congress and will be contesting from Patiala as well as from SAD leader and incumbent Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's home turf Lambi. Among some of the high-profile candidates and new entrants, Congress will see former SAD leader Manpreet Singh Badal (estranged nephew of Parkash Singh Badal) contesting from Bathinda Urban Assembly, Vijay Inder Singla from Sangrur, incumbent Sunil Jakhar from Abohar, Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli Majithia from Majithia, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Amrik Singh Dhillon, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring from Gidderbaha, Karan Kaur Brar from Muktsar, Mohammad Sadique from Bhadaur SC, Ajaib Singh Bhatti from Malout SC, Inderbir Singh Bolaria from Amritsar South, Manju Bansal from Mansa and Sanjay Talwar from Ludhiana East. Cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu who joined Congress right before the election contested from Amritsar East.
As for AAP, which is largely been seen as the outsider party in the current election has fielded a mix of activists, doctors and lawyers led by Bhagwant Mann, who challenged SAD's Sukhbir Singh Badal and Congress' Ravneet Singh Bittu. Other prominent faces in APP includes Supreme Court lawyer HS Phoolka from Dakha constituency in Ludhiana, Himmat Singh Shergill from SAS Nagar (Mohali) constituency, Sarabjit Kaur, wife of former finance minister in the Akali government Captain Kanwaljit Singh from Dera Bassi.
Another prominent candidate in the fray is Sucha Singh Chhotepur from Gurdaspur who is contesting against two-time sitting SAD MLA Gurbachan SIngh Babbehali, Congress' Barindollt Singh Pahra and AAP's Amarjeet Singh Chahal.
Key poll issues
Drugs, employment and corruption were the key poll issues in the Punjab Assembly election which saw 77.4% voter turnout in the 117 Assembly seats. According to Firstpost writer 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 question was: who will the people chose to replace them — AAP or Congress. As the exit polls show, it is likely to be Congress
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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2017 23:21:16 IST