Exit polls have predicted a decimation of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine in Punjab. They forecast a neck-and-neck contest between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to gain a majority in the assembly.
The BJP’s motto might be a “Congress-mukt Bharat” but the party would prefer the Congress to the AAP in Punjab.
Here are 5 reasons for the BJP’s love for the Congress in Punjab:
1. If the AAP wins in Punjab, it will become the only regional party ruling more than one state—in this case, the union territory of Delhi. That could prop up the AAP to the political centre stage at the national level and might propel it to a position where the party could become a rallying force for anti-BJP parties, which had their genesis in anti-Congressism.
2. While the Congress seems to be caught in a time warp, the AAP has already moved to Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the two states that will go to polls in November-December this year and where the BJP has high stakes. If the AAP gains a momentum from Punjab, it could emerge as the BJP’s principal challenger in these two states this year and in others the next year onwards.
3. The BJP has had the better of the Congress in states that traditionally witness bipolar contests. The AAP could turn out to be a spoiler. While triangular contests are said to favour the BJP, the AAP has turned this theory upside down—in Delhi earlier and now in Punjab if forecasts hold true.
4. Unlike Congress whose organisation is in a shambles, the AAP has proved to be a master in building up an organisation and party infrastructure in new territories right from the grassroots levels in no time. It’s as much adept at using new age communication tools such as the social media as at practising the traditional way of politics centred around castes and religions. That neutralises the BJP’s advantage.
5. The AAP government in Delhi has had stormy relations with the NDA regime at the Centre at the institutional level and with senior BJP leaders at individual levels. The BJP is not enamoured of the prospects of another AAP chief minister indulging in public spats with the Prime Minister and other central ministers.