Punjab polls: Will the state see AAP rise this time?

As a challenge to the settled status quo, the young party’s entry into Punjab and Goa has been more than just a symbolic addition of a new flavour on the menu.

Published: 04th February 2017 03:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2017 06:35 AM   |  A+A-

File photo of Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal (C) during a rally in Amritsar

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: There’s a common thread running between Punjab and Goa, both going to polls on Saturday —  the emergence of the AAP as a serious contender. As a challenge to the settled status quo, the young party’s entry into Punjab and Goa has been more than just a symbolic addition of a new flavour on the menu  — it has truly made the contest triangular by widening the voter choice. As a cabbie from Punjab puts it, “We’ve seen the older two, now maybe we should try the third.’’

To extend the food analogy, the conflict between the older has been a boring staple of two Punjab, with the SAD-BJP and the Congress virtually taking turns to run the state till the Akalis bucked the trend last time to win a straight 10 years in power. The Congress under Captain Amrinder Singh, which is attempting a comeback, finds its best chance in years subverted by the appearance of the new claimant, which had a good debut in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In Goa, itself new to electoral politics, the AAP is an even more novel phenomenon, but it’s again queering the pitch for the usual bipolar contest between tradition rivals BJP and the Congress, with a few local elements in the mix.

If the IB report is anything to go by, the undercurrent is in favour of the AAP in Punjab. This has happened thanks to the coming together of ‘subaltern forces’ — the Dalits, the Left-minded, the Naxal districts and the old Sikh radicals. That Kejriwal has ‘cultivated’ Canada-settled hardcore elements is no secret. But as an old Punjab hand explained, “it’s a benign phenomenon — if the so-called Khalistanis now want to support a party in a mainstream electoral contest, it means they are coming around, not stoking terrorism.’’

However, the Modi Government has not taken to the emergence of the AAP kindly. Sources in the know claim, faced with a possible Akali (SAD) wipe out, the BJP would rather transfer votes to the Congress than have the ‘’loose cannon’’ AAP/Kejriwal win Punjab, a crucial border state. ‘’There’s a tangible disquiet in the state’s establishment as well,’’ the source adds.

In Goa, Michael Lobo, a BJP MLA, claims his party “will form the government.’’ Not an atypical claim from a typical politician. Much of Lobo’s confidence, it seems, is based on the BJP’s internal survey, which gives the party anywhere between 18-20 seats.

The Congress, which also claims it’s “winning’’ the state, is being given 11-15 seats by the same survey. The party’s hopes are pinned on the splintering in the BJP-Sangh camp; and its falling apart with the Maharashtrawadi Goa Gomantak Party.

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