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  India   Politics  05 Feb 2017  Assembly polls: Parties’ fate sealed amid high Punjab, Goa turnout

Assembly polls: Parties’ fate sealed amid high Punjab, Goa turnout

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BASAK
Published : Feb 5, 2017, 1:22 am IST
Updated : Feb 5, 2017, 6:20 am IST

Saturday’s polling was the first round in a 5-state election process that ends with the results on March 11.

Women display their election identity cards as they stand in a queue to cast their votes outside a polling station in Punjab. (Photo: AP)
 Women display their election identity cards as they stand in a queue to cast their votes outside a polling station in Punjab. (Photo: AP)

New Delhi: With the fate of the BJP, Congress and AAP sealed in EVMs after a high voter turnout in Goa and Punjab on Saturday evening, Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal seemed relaxed. Standing among his miniature horses, he talked with journalists about the exotic breed and how AAP had “fielded candidates with Khalistani links”. He also showed off his Marwari horses, another rare breed, for the benefit of the cameras.

At a time when opinion polls and political pundits are predicting “complete wipeout” of SAD-BJP combine, Sukhbir Singh Badal said he was confident of returning to power for the “third time”. 

Compared to 78.06 per cent turnout in 2012 Assembly polls in Punjab, the state on Saturday recorded 75 per cent polling. If the ground reports and electoral predictions are to be believed, the tide is against the ruling coalition. In Punjab, the fight is apparently between Congress and AAP.

Goa, on the other hand, outdid its 2012 record with an 83 per cent voter turnout. Generally, a high turnout is considered to be a vote against the incumbent. The BJP is in power in Goa.

In 2012, Goa polled 81 per cent and the BJP defeated the Congress to come to power. In Punjab, a high turnout of 78 per cent in 2012 favoured the ruling SAD-BJP combine. 

Reeling under charges of corruption, drug menace and the SYL canal controversy, the ruling combo seems to be on sticky wicket this time.

Winning Punjab is crucial for the Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi led Congress which has been reduced to the role of a minor player in virtually all politically important states. 

In Punjab, the Congress has the best shot. A defeat in Punjab could bury the party deeper. But AAP is the new Akali in Punjab. From raking up anti-Sikh riots, desecration of Guru Granth Sahib to allegedly mingling with former terrorists, AAP has been walking the Akali line. 

Arvind Kejriwal has been accused by both, the Congress and Akali Dal, of “getting support from the ISI”. Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Saturday, “After 30 years there was a blast in Punjab. Kejriwal having dinner and breakfast with Babbar Khalsa, it is a clear indication that ISI sponsors him.” 

On January 30, Mr Kejriwal allegedly stayed in the house of an acquitted Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) militant Gurinder Singh in Moga. AAP’s Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh had denied the charge.

If AAP wins Punjab, Mr Kejriwal could emerge as a major player among the anti-BJP and anti-Congress forces during the 2019 general elections. A win in Punjab will also bolster his chances of making inroads in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf in Gujarat, where Assembly polls are slated for 2018. 

In Goa if the high turnout goes against the ruling BJP, it could be advantage AAP as the Congress remains in complete disarray. The powerful environment lobby in Goa, besides the church, was also tilting in favour of AAP. 

Pushed to a corner, the BJP and the Sangh have been banking heavily on defence minister Manohar Parrikar to help BJP return to power in Goa. “If BJP wins Goa, it will be Parrikar’s victory,” a BJP functionary said. 

Of Goa’s 40 Assembly seats, AAP is contesting 39 on its own and is supporting a candidate in one. The ruling BJP has put up its nominees in 36 seats and is supporting independents in the others. In the 2012 polls, the BJP had contested 28 seats and won 21.The Congress in Goa has fielded candidates in 37 Assembly berths while the MGP-GSM-SS alliance is contesting 35 seats.

Tags: sukhbir singh badal, punjab assembly polls, harsimrat kaur badal
Location: India, Punjab