A record turnout in the Punjab assembly elections has sent the political contenders for power into a tizzy over the possible scenarios that could unfold on the day of counting on March 6.
Notwithstanding their claims about securing a majority in the 117-member House, both the incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress are bracing themselves for the possibility of voters throwing up a fractured mandate, and eluding the magic figure of 59 needed to form the government.
Soon after the polling closed on Monday, with an impressive 81% voters making the trip to the polling booth, key strategists in the Akali and Congress camps got down to the number games and worked out contingency plans in case of a hung assembly.
Both sides have started identifying potential winners from the Sanjha Morcha and independents. The People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) led by Manpreet Singh Badal would be most vulnerable to poaching in case a few of its candidates come up winners.
Well-placed SAD sources said that deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s troubleshooting agenda in the run-up to the counting day would be to “identify and establish a link” with rebels from other parties who are likely to romp home.
The objective, according to party sources, is to put in place a plan to poach Congress rebels and some potential winners of the Sanjha Morcha.
The Congress is also worried about ‘spoilers’ as more than a dozen rebels from the party were in the fray. Given that the election has shaped up into a tight fight, their potential to slice away victory margins has gone up considerably.
Given this backdrop, the task of the Punjab Congress’s think-tank is cut out. The party, hoping to wrest power, has decided to chalk out a multi-pronged strategy to checkmate its rivals.
To begin with the Congress will do a post-mortem of the voting pattern with the help of “veteran political analysts and psephologists”, party sources said.
Following this, the party’s in-house analysts will “minutely analyse” the voting percentage of each constituency. “It will be a very conservative analysis of each seat,” a Congress source said. “On the basis of this we will work out a backup plan to deal with the unfolding scenario, positive or otherwise.”
The election may be over, but the political players’ make-or-break manoeuvring to capture power has just begun.