Whom does a higher turnout of voters benefit in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa? Is it to throw out ‘unpopular governments’ or endorse the one that has managed to mobilise their support bases?
In Uttarakhand where more than 75% voted, BJP managers said their party’s decision to make BC Khanduri the chief minister had “worked” to their advantage. The RSS had worked “hard” through its network. But Congress leaders asked, “Whom does a higher turnout benefit? A sitting, unpopular government? What about the role of BJP rebels?”
In Goa, a turnout of 81% has boosted the hopes of the BJP. The Congress, however, said the record turnout may not augur well for the party but “it would still be able to retain power”.
In Punjab which saw 78% vote, the Congress, BJP and the Akalis were making their calculations and, surprisingly, all sounded hopeful that the turnouts will benefit them.
Many leaders agreed the turnout might be more to do with the Election Commission’s initiative to clean up voter lists and then distribute slips to voters to turn up at booths.
But a higher turnout has always benefited their combine, argued Akali and BJP strategists, pointing to previous records. The Akalis have formed the government whenever the polling in the assembly elections has gone beyond 70%.
They credited the turnout of voters to mobilisation of voters by their cadres and selection of “right” candidates. They also said the Congress had “failed” to convert a win-win situation of the last few months to their complete advantage. “We are going to form the government,” Congress chief minister candidate Amarinder Singh said.
Congress managers underscored the point that the rebels were not just their problems. The Badals had one of their own clan, Manpreet Badal, leading the pack of rebels. “But his Sanja Morcha didn’t click,” said a BJP top strategist in Punjab. “We got the advantage of multi-cornered contest owing to smaller parties like BSP and even CPI. This would have split the anti-Akali votes.”
Both the Akali and BJP leaders held that, ultimately, the difference in the tally won’t be more than that of a handful of seats due to the absence of a direct contest with Congress nominees in many places.
For the Congress, the call given by Dera Sacha Sauda, a cult led by a religious leader in Malwa region, to elect “clean candidates” should benefit the party even if it had not openly given support, unlike in 2007.