With the exit polls giving a slight edge to the Congress, will Punjab stick to the pattern since 1972 — of seeing the ruling party being told by voters to take a break?
It’s certainly going to be a close call this time, with the highest ever voter turnout, the presence of a third force and the profusion of rebels in an election without any wave.
The fledgling People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), led by breakaway SAD stalwart Manpreet Singh Badal, 49, may emerge as an important player if no party or alliance reaches the majority figure of 59 in the 117-member assembly. However, the Congress as well as the ruling SAD-BJP alliance appear equally confident.
“We will surely get more than 70 seats and form the government comfortably. I wonder why no survey agency can see this and predict it correctly,” said Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, 69. The “poor performance and high-handedness” of the Akali-BJP regime will tilt the scales in favour of the Congress, he said.
Not to be outdone, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, 49, predicts sweeping majority for his alliance on the strength of its development plank and the absence of any obvious anti-incumbency factor. “There is a big surprise in store for everyone. We will create history tomorrow by winning the election with a thumping majority,” he told HT on Monday.
But both sides are apprehensive of the Manpreet Badal factor, going by the response he got from the youth and some sections of the urban middle class.
Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh, said electoral politics in Punjab had gone beyond the emotional agenda based on caste, religion, and quota-within-quota issue – which dominates the discourse in UP.
People seem to be fed up of the mudslinging by political parties. This is a new terrain in which predictions of electoral pundits based on traditional considerations could well go wrong.