Election 2019

Punjab is likely to buck the national trend in the Parliamentary elections, 2019

Harjap Singh Aujla | March 22, 2019 12:40 PM

The Mirage stealth attack in Balakot (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa) in Pakistan has had its impact in the religiously sensitive Indo-Gangetic India. Forty four deaths of para-military personnel caused by the terror strike of February 14th 2019, near Pulwama (Kashmir) generated a wave of indignation in the country.

Reprisal action by India was on expected lines. Although the damage caused by the Mirage attack fighters is still a mystery, but the pliant media has blown the impact and the aftermath far out of proportion. Every national TV channel (English and Hindi) is racing to beat every competitor channel in expressing solidarity with the point of view of the government. Without declaration of a formal war, it appears that the nation is at war. The war hysteria has assumed unprecedented proportions.

Under the emotionally charged circumstances, the Election Commission of India has called the parliamentary elections for May. Although the primary battleground will be the most populous states of U.P. and Bihar, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Punjab will be among the relatively smaller and nationally insignificant states. Gujarat will assume un-proportionately high importance, because the prime minister comes from that state and it is also the fastest progressing state of India.

Punjab has Congress in power. It has two thirds majority in the state assembly. The usual main opposition party the, Shiromani Akali Dal, was relegated to the third spot, due to an unusual surge of the Aam Aadmi Party in the assembly elections held in 2017. Surprisingly the main ruling party at the centre, the Bharatya Janata Party could muster only two seats in the state assembly.

Riding on the shoulders of its two year old victory in the state assembly election, the Congress is in an upbeat mood. Although there is nothing spectacular in its performance during the past two years, but its momentum is keeping it in an unusually upbeat mood. There is a talk of fielding former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh from his post-1947-partition home constituency of Amritsar. If he agrees to contest, he can be a game changer. His own election is a foregone conclusion. But his coattails are going to be long and wide. He can induce the victories in the neighbouring constituncies of Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Ferozepore and Khadoor Sahib. It proves right the old adage that well begun is half done.

The BJP appears to be strong in Hoshiarpur (Reserve) seat. In spite of a heavy and dirty baggage of the past ten years, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) appears to be in the driver's seat in Bathinda. This is precisely due to fragmentation of opposition votes among three contenders. The Congress has nothing spectacular to report about in its past two years. The urban Hindu votes are leaning towards the BJP.

There is a grouping of six parties contesting as an opposition front. They include Bahujan Samaj Party, Punjabi Ekta Party, Lok Insaaf Party, Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Social Party and MP Dharam Vir Gandhi's organization. This rainbow coalition appears to be gaining strength in rural areas. The Aam Aadmi Party, which was at its peak five years ago, appears to be losing steam. This is primarily due to its national president Arvind Kejriwal's pro Haryana policy on sharing of Punjab waters and his act of apologizing to Bikram Singh Majithia after blaming him for drug smuggling.

As of this moment the Congress is looking like winning the largest chunk of seats. The BJP-SAD combine and the Punjab Democratic Alliance are vying for the second spot. It will not be a surprise if the AAP fails to win even one seat, compared to four seats it won five years ago.

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