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Anti-incumbency Brought Down Akalis, AAP Undone by Hype, Says Captain

It was a indeed a happy birthday for Captain Amarinder Singh, who is set to return as Punjab Chief Minister. The Congress not only won the elections but reduced the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine to the third spot. CNN-News18's Jyoti Kamal caught up with the man the moment. Excerpts from the interview:

Jyoti Kamal | CNN-News18jyotik

Updated:March 12, 2017, 6:04 PM IST
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Anti-incumbency Brought Down Akalis, AAP Undone by Hype, Says Captain
Captain Amarinder Singh has returned as the Chief Minister of Punjab.
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It was indeed a happy birthday for Captain Amarinder Singh, who is set to return as Punjab Chief Minister. The Congress not only won the elections but reduced the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine to the third spot. CNN-News18's Jyoti Kamal caught up with the man the moment. Excerpts from the interview:

A very happy birthday. It is quite a birthday gift if you may call it that because it is such a big margin and it was expected. There was talk that the Congress might be able to pull it off. But did you expect this big a margin?
I expected 66 seats. But (Congress strategist) Prashant (Kishore) had always been telling me that it will be over 70 seats. His theory was that if the bubble bursts for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it will cross 70. If it does not, then you will come down to 45.

ALSO READ: Amarinder Singh to Take Oath as Punjab CM on March 16

You had been out of power for 10 years. It should have been an easy romp home. But there was the Aam Aadmi Party. This triangular contest really complicated calculations. Did it really complicate things for you?
There was the anti-incumbency wave against the ruling dispensation. As far as the AAP was concerned, they had hyped themselves too much... and we got taken in by them, you (media) also got taken in by them. When they said 'we are going to sweep Malwa region', 'we are going to sweep this, we are going to sweep that', it was their social media ploy. They were well ahead of us in social media campaigning. Even I started wondering... Malwa is part of our old area right from Bathinda, Barnala, Sangrur, Patiala and Mansa. All this is old Patiala. I should not have felt that way, but I thought that if they (AAP) are saying something, there must be something in it. But during campaigning, I found the public mood to be in our favour. We got a very good response. As it is seen by the tally, we are well ahead of them in Malwa.

Let's talk about the entire state. At the end of the day, the Aam Aadmi Party has become the second largest party. What led to their rise to this position? Punjab has been a two-party system. What allowed the AAP to make inroads?
You must remember that you have got a party that has gone down to the dumps — the Akali Dal. We thought that when the Akalis go down, they would get what the exit polls were projecting — a single-digit tally. We knew that those who still remembered the 1984 (anti-Sikh riots) and other things, would go to the AAP. I think that is what happened. A lot of the Akali votes shifted to the AAP.

What is it about Punjab that gets AAP a fertile ground here? Four parliamentary seats and now they have opened their innings with over 20 seats.
No, it was a different thing. The four parliamentary seats they won can be attributed to a sense of bitterness that we did not take into account. Obviously, people had a lot of frustration. There were no jobs available. People were very angry. That gave them (AAP) those parliamentary seats. Preneet (Kaur) lost the Patiala parliamentary seat quite heavily. But in the city, she won by about 4,000 votes. But when it came to the bypoll, I stepped down from here and went to Amritsar. The AAP lost their deposit in the city. So you know it was a sudden spurt and then sort of calmed down. Look at my win this time. I have never had such a big win ever before — 52,000 votes. It was 46,000 before that, and 40,000 before that. So it has been going up. I don't see the AAP as something that will be there forever, it is a one-time movement. They have used social media cleverly. I think if others use their social media effectively, which we will, we will see that they are completely finished off.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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