The People's Party of Punjab (PPP), less than a year old, is eyeing a key role in government formation in case the January 30 elections throw up a hung assembly.
The party led by Manpreet Singh Badal, a rebel from the ruling Badal clan, is likely to force triangular contests in at least 10 seats. The party has so far declared candidates for 94 of the 117 seats in Punjab.
The 1997, 2002 and 2007 assembly elections had witnessed straight contests between the Akali-BJP combine and the Congress.
The PPP has tied up with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) and the Left parties to form the Sanjha Morcha. Political observers said many PPP candidates would forfeit their security deposits, but that should not deter the fledgling party.
The PPP's electoral hopes rest on the agrarian Malwa region, particularly Lambi, the constituency represented by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and Gidderbaha, from where Manpreet - the CM's estranged nephew - has been elected MLA four times and is contesting again.
Manpreet is contesting from the Maur seat in Bathinda district too.
The PPP could also prove a handful for the ruling Akali-BJP alliance and Congress in Khanna, Budhlada, Bathinda (Urban), Kotkapura, Fatehgarh Sahib, Amloh, Dakha, Kharar, Mohali and Jaito (SC) constituencies.