Even though the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has brought all its big leaders into campaigning, the Dhuri assembly seat could be difficult to win for the ruling party, if the last election results are any indication.
The main threat to the Akalis, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is not contesting this time, but its vote share from the last time still hounds the SAD and the Congress, main contenders this time.
Even the chief minister and deputy CM are campaigning actively in the constituency, since the 2014 Lok Sabha election result gave them much to worry, since the SAD had managed a lead at only 4 of 166 polling booths, while the AAP had won 150, and the Congress had taken 12.
At that time, AAP candidate Bhagwant Mann had secured 63,189 votes for a huge lead of 33,837 votes from this constituency against Akali stalwart Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who polled 29,352, while the Congress finished a poor third with 18,398 votes. This mammoth lead is what is worrying the Akalis, as the AAP had won in both villages and the city.
Similar was the situation for the Akalis in the 2012 assembly election, when they won only 42 of 160 polling booths, while the Congress took 118 to win the assembly seat with a comfortable margin of more than 11,000 votes. The SAD claims that it was the Congress votes that drifted to the AAP but is silent when asked what would happen if all those votes now returned to the Congress.
Worried over the statistics, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has gone for micro-management of the campaign and given every prominent party leader a cluster of two to three villages to cultivate votes from.
“The previous statistics are against us, but we will change history, and this time, come out with a huge victory,” said Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra. State Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had failed to capitalise on the anti-SAD public sentiment. “But that sentiment is still high, and now the Congress is only option for the voters,” he said.
Traders back SAD-BJP
The agro-marketing association and many other bodies of traders have extended support to Akali-BJP candidate Gobind Singh Longowal. On Saturday evening, the associations of arhtiyas (commission agent), brick-kiln operators, labourers, and agro-feed, flour mill and cotton mill traders assured support to deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal at a meeting. Sukhbir said the economic staturs of the traders should improve for the progress of Punjab, and for this, the excise and taxation department had decided to resolve the issues of the business community.
Punjab Arhtiya Association president Ravinder Singh Cheema thanked the government for various reliefs to traders and commission agents.
Member of Parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, agriculture minister Tota Singh, and education minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema also addressed the traders. The leaders also participated in door-to-door campaigning. Sukhbir will address a series of rallies on Monday in Dhuri and adjoining villages.