The Congress looked on course for a comfortable majority in Punjab, early counting trends indicated, bringing good news for birthday boy Capt Amarinder Singh who is the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
If trends hold, the Congress will make a comeback in the border state after 10 years, way ahead of its rivals.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which made its Punjab poll debut this election, moved to second place after trailing the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP in early hours of counting.
But the ruling coalition seems to be doing better than what exit polls predicted, a majority of which didn’t even see its tally in double digits.
Punjab has a 117-member assembly. The Congress was leading in 69 seats, AAP in 23 and SAD-BJP 22.
The exit polls pointed to a hung House with the Congress and AAP in a tight contest. The contest appears to be tight but for the second place.
Punjab has largely seen a two-party contest, between the Congress and SAD but entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP changed the poll scenario.
Punjab was central to AAP’s plan to go national. Kejriwal and his senior colleagues gave it all, with the Delhi chief minister spending close to two months in the border state in the run-up to the polls.
Capt Singh, who celebrates his 75th birthday on Saturday, was leading from Patiala (Urban) but was trailing chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Lambi.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who dumped the BJP, flirted with the AAP, launched his own outfit before finally deciding on the Congress, was leading in Amritsar (East).