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Punjab election: Congress war room, AAP rallies and other top stories from the state

From the report on the celebrations in the Congress war room on the day of polling to the row sparked off by Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to stay in a Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) militant’s house, here we have got a list of the top ten stories from Punjab during the election season.

assembly elections Updated: Mar 11, 2017 07:41 IST
HT Correspondent
A shopkeeper adjusts cardboard cut-outs of political parties leaders (L-R) Prime Minister Narender Modi, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for sale in Jalandhar on January 20, 2017.
A shopkeeper adjusts cardboard cut-outs of political parties leaders (L-R) Prime Minister Narender Modi, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for sale in Jalandhar on January 20, 2017.(AFP Photo)

An unprecedented three-way election in Punjab ends on Saturday as more than 20 million votes are counted to elect a new assembly. The results from 117 assembly constituencies could see the exit of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance as forecasts are split between the Congress - led by Amarinder Singh - and the rookie Aam Aadmi Party.

The months of bitter campaigning that preceded the elections saw religious and caste overtures, development rhetoric and even an explosion at a rally that left six people dead.

Follow complete coverage of the Punjab assembly elections here.

From the report on the celebrations in the Congress war room on the day of polling to the row sparked off by Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to stay in a Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) militant’s house, here we have got a list of the top ten stories from Punjab during the election season.

Punjab polls early trends, AAP’s anger keep Congress’ war room upbeat

Hours after polling ended in Punjab, the Congress party broke into a celebration at its election ‘war room’ at a quiet corner in Mohali.

The ‘war room’ set up by party strategist Prashant Kishor was the nerve centre of Congress’s campaign in the state. As per the party’s post-poll calculations, it is winning 38 of Malwa’s 69 seats, 18 in Majha and around 12 in Doaba.

Read more on the accounts of party strategists and volunteers reporting straight from the booths of the state’s 117 assembly constituencies and why they feel it is ‘advantage’ Congress.

Kejriwal spends night at ex- militant’s house, kicks off political row in Punjab

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is campaigning in Punjab ahead of February 4 assembly elections, secretly arrived in Moga on Saturday night after addressing a rally in Zira and retired for the night in the house of an acquitted Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) militant Gurinder Singh, top police sources said.

“By staying overnight in the house of a former militant, Kejriwal has again proved that he is ready to cross any limit to capture power in Punjab,” Sukhbir Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief said.

Voters pose for photographers as they queue to cast their ballots in the Punjab assembly and Amritsar Lok Sabha elections at a polling booth in a village on the outskirts of Amritsar on February 4, 2017. (AFP Photo)

‘AAP workers won’t stay alive if Badal tells Akalis to turn violent’

The member of parliament from Bathinda Harsimrat Kaur Badal made these comments after a protester hurled a shoe at the CM during a function in Lambi in Muktsar.

This was the second attack on the Badals in four days. A few days ago, protesters hurled stones at Harsimrat’s husband and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s cavalcade in Jalalabad in which four people were hurt.

AAP’s star campaigner Bhagwant Mann tickles where it hurts in Punjab

Anyone who knows Punjabis, know they love a revolution, and Mann makes each one of them feel they are part of one. The farming crowd roars as he laments how the successive governments have finished “kisaani”. The youth, he rues, are hounded by unemployment and drugs. “Naukrian mangan jaande ne te daanga paindiyaan ne.”

There is a collective murmur as he cites the case of a two-year-old addict. “He got addicted to smack through his mother’s milk.”

A natural at public speaking, the star campaigner of the Aam Aadmi Party Bhagwant Mann makes an immediate connect with the audience.

Punjab elections: Both Congress, AAP confident of winning, in for a long wait

The Congress and AAP on Sunday sounded confident a day after voting in Punjab, each claiming to have done enough to wrest the mandate from the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine which seemed resigned to defeat.

While Kejriwal, who relaxed with a viewing of Bollywood film Raees along with his deputy Manish Sisodia, said AAP would win, Congress leader and former India hockey captain Pargat Singh said the AAP would make marginal inroads but the ruling alliance would be wiped out, clearing the way for an emphatic Congress victory.

Punjab polls: Fearing AAP, Akalis may have added votes to Congress kitty

Behind the euphoria in Congress camp after polling ended on Saturday were also reports that the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance could have added votes to its kitty.

Children during an election rally by AAP for the Punjab assembly election at Belongi in Mohali on Tuesday January 10, 2017. (Anil Dayal/Hindustan Times)

The Akalis and Congress had joined hands to stack up odds against AAP, be it the allegations of Kejriwal’s stay at an ex-Khalistani commando’s house or later blaming his party for the blast at Maur to wean away moderate Sikhs and Hindu voters from it.

Old-timers in Punjab perhaps know the game is bigger than it seems. “Andar khaate bara kujh honda ae (a lot is decided behind the scenes),” is a common refrain of elderly voters across Punjab.

SAD embraces dera chief in defiance of Takht, promises to facilitate ‘satsangs’ in Punjab

In open defiance of the Akal Takht’s 2007 edict that Sikhs must boycott Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Malwa region’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders on Wednesday announced to facilitate ‘satsang’ (religious congregation) by the controversial sect head in Punjab.

The contentious step of the SAD amounts to going against the writ of the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal seat of Sikhism. This is clear indication of the nervousness prevailing within the party in its once-bastion Malwa region. The move is also likely to evoke strong reactions particularly among Sikh hardliners.

Punjab elections 2017: a cliffhanger on the cards

Punjab is on the cusp of a history-making assembly election. The first shape-shifter is evident in the contours of the contest itself. Since 1947, the two traditional parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress, have dominated the electoral landscape and taken turns to rule the border state – a neat seven times each.

This time, however, the Aam Aadmi Party has disturbed the bipolar mould. Never before has Punjab seen such a potent third force in the power sweepstakes.

Ahead of Punjab polls, Navjot Singh Sidhu joins Congress, meets Rahul Gandhi

The 53-year-old is known as a star vote-catcher who is likely to help the Congress overcome a strong fight from the Akali Dal and the AAP in the Punjab assembly elections.

Cricketer-turned-politician and former member of parliament and current Congress Party candidate for Punjab assembly Navjot Singh Sidhu (C) gestures as he addresses media representatives after filing his nomination papers to the District Development Panchayat Officer in Amritsar. (AFP Photo)

“Known for his straight talking, ideological commitment to nationalism as also wit and humour, we are certain the Congress party will be immensely strengthened in Punjab and elsewhere with the entry of Sidhu,” a press statement tweeted by Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala read.

Who will win Punjab polls? Here is what astrologers, and a fortune-telling parrot, have to say

With the rapidly changing ground situation, a thrilling contest among SAD-BJP, Congress and the newbie AAP is on the cards. On poll day, here’s what pundits, soothsayers and Shimla’s fortune-telling parrot Ganga Ram have to say on how the three players will fare in these high-stakes elections.

Follow complete coverage of the assembly elections here.