There are no permanent friends or foes in politics. 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.
The Congress, on its part, may have returned the favour in seats it was not hoping to win or where the stakes of ruling Badals were high such as the Lambi seat of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Jalalabad of his son and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, and the Bathinda (Urban) seat from where CM’s estranged nephew Manpreet Badal contested, party sources revealed.
Regarding Bathinda (Urban), which falls in the Lok Sabha constituency of Union minister and Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal, the sources said even as both Sukhbir and Harsimrat would not like Manpreet to win this seat, he had been able to get support of Hindu as well as Sikh voters of the SAD-BJP.
After polling ended, the mood in the ruling SAD and BJP war rooms was sombre. But even the newbie Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too did not exude the confidence it did before the polling day. This has surprised political pundits as post-poll calculations of many are still favouring AAP as the main player, though short of the majority mark of 59 seats.
It was precisely this possibility of SAD-Congress “truck” that Kejriwal was using as his poll plank. A victory in Punjab could catapult AAP to the national scene against the Congress and BJP in the 2019 parliamentary polls.
The AAP has shown its poll prowess by stitching an organisational structure in no time and enticing restive voters by promising them nothing less than a revolution.
To outweigh the AAP propaganda of a SAD-Congress “nexus”, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh had thrown his hat in the ring of five-time CM Badal’s den, Lambi, but did not leave his home turf Patiala either.
To win the war, the two traditional rivals may have even agreed to lose some prestige battles. A defeat from his citadel Lambi may not augur well for the CM nor for Sukhbir from Jalalabad.
“Both the Congress and SAD-BJP know it would not be business as usual if AAP takes Punjab. As the two ruled Punjab alternately, the businesses of both Congress and SAD-BJP leaders have flourished. The AAP has also threatened to reopen corruption cases given a quiet burial by both Badal and Amarinder against each other,” Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science at Panjab University, says.
DID DERA CAUSE A REVERSE SWING TOO?
The Dera Sacha Sauda, which had lifted SAD-BJP hopes in the last lap by announcing its support, could have caused a reverse swing on the penultimate day through word of mouth. Many believe the open declaration of support to SAD-BJP could be nothing more than “posturing”.
The dera vote to the SAD-BJP would have cut those of AAP and helped Congress indirectly. A direct support to the Congress, therefore, cannot be ruled out, party leaders say.
STACKING ODDS AGAINST AAP
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.