On the 5th of February 2017, the people of Punjab took to the polls to elect their legislative assembly. The election turnout was estimated at 78%, this was below the election commissions estimates of 85%.
On the 5th of February 2017, the people of Punjab took to the polls to elect their legislative assembly. The election turnout was estimated at 78%, this was below the election commissions estimates of 85%. The total number of able voters in Punjab is 19 million people and out of those 15 million voted for filling the seats of 117 legislative assembly members. The results will be known on March 11th. Male turnout in the state was 78.5% and female turnout was 79.2%.
Who are the main contenders?
In 2012, the INC narrowly lost out to the alliance between the SAD and BJP. Amarinder Singh is confident of displacing the BJP in the state; but the AAP’s popularity has also gained traction. The BJP appears to have focused more on the larger cities like Amritsar, in which they cleaned the temples and improved road connectivity but demonetization and its effect on the rural areas could come back to haunt them. With the INC recruiting Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is a favorite in Amritsar, it could turn out to be a bad move by the BJP.
The SAD-BJP combined stands accused of neither curbing rural debt nor addressing the drug problem which includes the abuse of opium, heroin, etc. This has led to public anger against the SAD-BJP. This is likely to benefit either the Congress or the AAP.
Is the Litmus test just for the BJP?
Besides from this being a litmus test for the BJP in the aftermath of demonetization, the test is also for the AAP and their credentials. The BJP has come under nationwide scrutiny for the demonetization policy and this coupled with natural anti-incumbency tendencies could see them losing the state but for AAP it is far more important.
AAP pulled of a shock win in Delhi but have yet to move out of our nation’s capital and on to other states. If AAP defeat both the INC and the BJP it will give their party full legitimacy and eventually could allow them to compete successfully on the national scene. It will also give hope to other parties who hope to campaign on the third front and break up the BJP and INC monopolies. With the scandal surrounding members of AAP in the Delhi assembly being put in jail and the effectiveness of their philosophy being heavily debated, Punjab will be the first test in whether their image as the anti-corruption saviors still holds as much power.
With the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, a powerful AAP can only be achieved by winning states like Punjab and if they fail, Arvind Kejriwal and his party could be in jeopardy of falling into obscurity.
Punjab is the first of the five states going to polls in the ensuing weeks. For the BJP, the election results will be a referendum on the national demonetization exercise. It appears unlikely that the BJP-SAD combination will be able to retain power in the Punjab. AAP has managed to conduct a successful campaign, made substantial gains and could well be the surprise winner in the state.