Giving a scare to both the Akali-BJP combine and the Congress in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has made the Lok Sabha elections a triangular contest in at least eight of the 13 constituencies in the state.
The first - time voters, the middle and working class, as well as the peasantry were a surprise gathering at the AAP rallies. Many silent voters can also emerge to choose AAP as an alternative on the polling day.
The AAP’s best bet in the state remains Bhagwant Mann in Sangrur, who is lapping up not only the anti-incumbency votes but also the tacit support of some Congress legislators opposed to sitting parliamentarian Vijay Inder Singla.
Mann’s aggressive campaigning outwits Akali rival Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, while Singla now pins hopes on the trading community in Barnala, Sangrur, Sunam, Samana and Lehra. The Muslims of Malerkotla already have declared support to the AAP in Sangrur.
In Ludhiana, the “viable alternative” poll pitch and lawyer-turned-candidate HS Phoolka are the twin factors in favour. A major section of intellectual and educated voters have rallied behind the advocate because of his work for the riot-hit families of 1984, which in a four-cornered contest among Sikh candidates gives him a good chance of winning.
Dr Dharamvir Gandhi in Patiala and Sadhu Singh in Farid kot have given the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) something to think. In Faridkot, SAD’s Paramjit Kaur Gulshan faces anti - incumbency for being absent from the constituency.
The visits of Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders boosted the confidence of Dr Gandhi in Patiala. Preneet Kaur of the Congress and Deepinder Singh Dhillon of the SAD have avoided criticising the AAP candidate.
In Amritsar, popular eye surgeon Dr Daljit Singh is rated high even by the main rivals, for he can slice away Sikh votes in the big contest between Capt Amarinder Singh (Congress) and Arun Jaitley (BJP).
Sucha Singh Chhotepur, AAP hope in Gurdaspur, will dent the vote banks of both Partap Singh Bajwa of the Congress and Vinod Khanna of the BJP.
Another candidate putting up a good fight is Bhai Baldeep Singh, contesting the Khadoor Sahib seat against Ranjit Singh Brahmpura of the SAD and Harminder Gill of the Congress.
Supreme Court lawyer Himmat Singh Shergill, fielded in Anandpur Sahib for his representing Gujarat’s Punjabi farmers, is taking on the sand-mining mafia in Rupnagar district, and the Kejriwal visit gave him boost in Banga and Nawanshahr.