The poll results, as seen from the trend so far, in Punjab hold a few surprises. Everyone expected the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine to sink to the single-digit mark; it is likely to end up as the second biggest party in the state with about a rather respectable 20 seats. All exit polls and pre-election assessments gave the Aam Aadmi Party a big thumbs up, some even predicting it would form the government. It is in the race for number three position at this point. All of them felt the Congress would perform well but few believed it would be in a position to form the government. It is comfortably placed now.
Clearly, everyone underestimated the strength of the Akali Dal on the ground and overestimated the popularity of AAP. The former was undoubtedly helming a very unpopular government and many felt it deserved punishment. But few captured the fact it had a solid voter base and couldn’t go down too far even in the worst circumstance. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP was expected to mop up the anti-incumbency votes and notch up close to 60 seats. Its popularity showed in its rallies, particularly in the Malwa region which accounts for 69 of the state’s 117 Assembly seats.
The big development in this election, however, is the Congress’s victory. It has been so rare in recent times that every victory for the party merits a thorough analysis. It had a good campaigning strategy to begin with. Its people connect programmes – Coffee with Captain and the Punjab da Captain – supported by efficient groundwork exuded purpose. In comparison, that of the AAP was more boisterous but less organised. The Congress has the advantage of projecting a credible leader in the form Amarinder Singh.
That Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi left the state to Amarinder and didn’t even bother to campaign was in a way good for the party. Wherever he takes the lead in campaigning, the party loses – this has been an uncomfortable takeaway for the party from several elections. The massive defeat of the SP-Congress alliance in Uttar Pradesh is a case in point. Rahul is proving himself a liability as star campaigner for the Congress.
The victory in Punjab means the Congress’s gradual extinction from the political map of the country takes a halt. For now, the party can survive in the hope that with a good leader and fit organisation in states it can still manage electoral victories. It is also a message to the party’s leadership that recovery has to begin from the states, not through a top-down approach.
The AAP, meanwhile, would have to wait for its next electoral victory. It might not be easy to come. Punjab was its best bait for a political footprint beyond Delhi. While there could be some credence in its argument that the Akali Dal, desperate to keep it out of power, asked its supporters to vote tactically to defeat AAP candidates, the number of seats it has finally managed does not speak too well about it. But it should take heart from the fact that it is the legitimate number two party in a big state. It can bide its time to be number one.
However, the number can change for both AAP and SAD as the counting progresses. Let’s wait and watch.
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Updated Date: Mar 11, 2017 11:49:56 IST