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Congress to Win Fight for Dominance in Punjab With 10 of 13 Seats, Show Surveys

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is expected to win two and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a single seat.


Updated:May 20, 2019, 7:22 PM IST
Congress to Win Fight for Dominance in Punjab With 10 of 13 Seats, Show Surveys
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh met Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Monday. (Image: @capt_amarinder/Twitter)

Chandigarh: In the Congress stronghold of Punjab, the News18-IPSOS exit poll has given the party the edge with 10 seats. As per the survey, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will win two and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a single seat.

Punjab was considered a fight for dominance for the Congress versus a comeback for the BJP. The exit polls conducted by various agencies show different results, with a majority of them giving the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) a lead over the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

As per another survey done by News 24 Chanakya, there will be a tie between the two parties, with the NDA and the Congress winning six seats each and the AAP a single seat. The Republic C-Voter has given the UPA 11 seats over the NDA’s two.

Unlike in other states, the contest in Punjab was reduced to a battle between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress and his arch rival Shiromani Akali Dal.

One of the few states where the Congress is in a commanding position, the Lok Sabha battle here was fought essentially on local issues. Despite claiming that it was a national election and the outcome would not be a reflection on his government's performance, experts opined that it was a mid-term test for the veteran.

The going was not supposed to be easy for the Akali Dal either. The infighting leading to the formation of the breakaway Taksali group had the party in disarray. The anger among Sikh voters over the desecration of the holy scripture and the subsequent police firing at protesters was still a simmering issue.

In 2014, the Modi wave had failed to hit Punjab, with the state’s voters giving the AAP four seats. Punjab was the only state to send members to the Lok Sabha from the new entity.

But the AAP's surge came at the expense of the Congress as the party managed to win only three of the 13 seats while the Akali Dal-BJP alliance bagged six.

This time, however, the AAP also lacked might, with most of its prominent faces and sitting MPs — Dharmavir Gandhi from Patiala and Harinder Singh Khalsa from Fatehpur Sahib — jumping ship.

Anti-incumbency also played its part in some areas and the BJP was confident that at least Hindu votes, in comparatively bigger cities like Amritsar and Ludhiana, would shift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Unemployment was one of the major concerns among voters, with both the central and state governments being held responsible for it.

There was resentment against the state government after it halted a number of schemes, started by the previous regime, for the welfare of the poor. The Congress government’s promise to put a stop to the rampant drug business — one of the major poll issues in the Assembly elections as well — also remained unfulfilled.

In Amritsar, the banning of border trade with Pakistan due to the ongoing standoff affected the livelihoods of around 40,000 people. Farmers in the border villages also faced problems with fencing and were unable to access their fields.

The Congress was expected to benefit from the split in the Akali Dal, which led to its Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura floating the Akali Dal (Taksali) with Rattan Singh Ajnala and Sewa Singh Sekhwan.

The Akali Dal was on the receiving end of the public wrath in the Assembly elections when it finished third behind the Congress and the AAP, winning only 15 of the 117 seats. The Congress got 77, AAP won 20 and the BJP only three.

Meanwhile, Union minister and prominent Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who was defending the Bathinda seat, was confident of her party on the comeback trail. In all of her rallies, Harsimrat Kaur appeared sure of winning her own seat and claimed that her husband Sukhbir Badal, contesting from Ferozpur, would also secure an easy win.

The BJP also faced a major challenge. The party fielded Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri from Amritsar, who received little support from the state unit as campaigning from the seat remained a low-key affair.

BJP candidate Sunny Deol, fielded from Gurdaspur, appeared to be the best bet as a popular star and attracted considerable attention. It is a prestige battle for Amarinder Singh in Gurdaspur as the Congress nominee and state unit president, Sunil Jakhar, is considered close to him.

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