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Malwa a door to power for Congress

india Updated: Feb 09, 2007 01:47 IST
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The biggest battle for the Punjab assembly is being fought in Malwa. The region has 65 of the total 117 constituencies in the state.

In the last election, the Shiromani Akali Dal had won 33 of its total tally of 44 seats from the region. They need to do better that tally this time to return to power, which is a tall order.

The Congress had formed the government in 2002 on the strength of its good performance in Majha and Doaba.

But this time, its fortunes will be decided in Malwa, where the Akalis are threatened for many reasons. Most importantly, a majority of the Akali Dal MLAs here are second timers and face a strong anti incumbency.

The feeling against as the Akalis is already showing on the ground as Ajit Singh, a Nameda villager in Samana district in the region said: "MLAs need to be accessible. But if we have difficulty in locating them why should we vote for them."

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is seeking re-election from Patiala, is confident the Congress will end up with as many as 45 to 50 seats here. "Even Badal is losing from Lambi. Many Akali stalwarts will be defeated likewise," he says confidently.

The Akalis feel the same way about the Majha region, the Congress stronghold, for identical reasons. The region has 27 seats. An Akali supporter says the Congress is doomed in the region. The two parties share the honours in Doaba, the third region of the state, where they are in a close contest

Although both Amarinder and Badal are contesting from Malwa, which spans Ferozepur on one side and Ludhiana on the other, the abrogation of the water treaty with other states seems to be working for the Congress.

The water table in Southern Punjab has fallen drastically and the abrogation sent positive signals to farmers. The region also saw many farmer suicides because of poor cotton yield due to adulterated insecticides. But with the introduction of the BT cotton hybrid variety, the yield has gone up.

In addition, the religious sect Sacha Sauda's diktat to the villagers to vote for the Congress is being seen as the final pronouncement of a grand victory.

Brahm Mohindra, the Congress nominee from Samana, who is fighting a tough battle against Surjit Singh Rakhra of the SAD and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, deputy CM contesting from Lehra Gaga against Prem Singh Chandumajra of SAD could be the beneficiaries.

The Akalis, however, discount these factors. Om Prakash, a BJP supporter, said "they are nowhere. They could not even muster good crowds for their Prime Minister. So where is their support".

Email Pankaj Vohra: pvohra @hindustantimes.com

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