The pattern of voting in nine districts of Malwa where over 80% votes were polled on Saturday clearly indicates a fiercely fought three-cornered battle.
But this trend was missing in Majha and Doaba where the voting percentage hovered between 70% and 75%, pointing towards a two-horse race.
This ‘conflicting’ signal from the voters of Punjab could be a cause of confusion — and worry also — for spin masters of major political parties.
Saturday’s overall 75% polling (as per EC till 10pm) is lower than 78.57% of 2012 when Punjab voters scripted history in the electoral politics of the state by recording highest ever polling.
The hardened Malwa voters came out in numbers enough to cause political upheavals in the frontier state and build or shatter the hopes of the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) combine.
Analysts point out that heavy polling in Malwa, which accounts for 69 seats, not only shows that the Congress, AAP and the SAD-BJP are locked in a triangular contest but also indicates that voters can cause tremors in Punjab’s politics.
Another factor behind the higher turnout in Malwa was heavy mobilisation, with three players in the reckoning instead of two.
“The assembly segments, including some in Malwa, with turnout lower than 2012 point towards a two-horse race,” a Punjab-based political observer says.
The pro-AAP wave in Malwa districts was pronounced. And this led to over 80% turnout in over 30 constituencies in at least 11 districts of the region.
In Jalalabad where SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal is locked in a tough contest with Bhagwant Mann (AAP) and Ravneet Singh Bittu (Congress), over 86% voters (86.97 % in 2012) cast their votes.
Certainly, open support of Premis of the Dera Sacha Sauda lifted the sagging spirit of the SAD rank and file where the mood was upbeat.
The polling percentage in Lambi seat of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was 78%, down from 87.29% in the last assembly elections.
The low turnout in Majha and Doaba has sent spin masters of political parties, especially the AAP, into a tizzy as its “wave” appeared to have failed to cross the Sutlej.
The contest in majority of seats in Majha and Doaba was between the Congress and SAD-BJP combine and the dera factor had no impact in this part of the state.
In Majitha, 68 % voters cast their votes in sharp contrast to 81.84 polling percentage during the 2012 polls.
In Doaba, 74.77 per cent polling took place this time while it was 76.69 in 2012.
Until 2007, Punjab had the tradition of voting out the incumbent government on the pattern of wheat-paddy cycle. In 2012, voters gave a stunning verdict bringing the SAD-BJP combine to power for a second time in a row.
Now, all eyes are on March 11. Is Punjab heading for another stunner? The jury is still out.