Punjab all set to witness multi-cornered fight

Capturing hearts: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during an election campaign rally for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

Capturing hearts: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during an election campaign rally for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

With Punjab all set to witness a multi-cornered electoral battle in the 2022 Assembly elections, the results in many constituencies could see a nail-biting contest as the margin of a win or loss could be narrow.

The electoral battle was expected to be a three-cornered fight among the ruling Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). However, the entry of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-Punjab Lok Congress-Shiromani Akali Dal (Sankyukt) alliance, besides the debut of farmer unions under the banner of the Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) — an amalgamation of 22 Punjab-based farmer outfits that actively participated against the Centre’s controversial farm laws — has left the political battle arena wide open.

The 2017 Assembly election largely saw a triangular fight among the Congress, the SAD and the AAP. At that time, 26 of the 117 constituencies saw the winning margins of less than 5,000 votes. In at least 16 constituencies, the margin was less than 3,000 votes.

The closest contests were seen in the Malwa belt with winning margins under 5,000 votes in 16 seats. Such margins were witnessed in seven seats in the Doaba region and three in the Majha belt.

Data from the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) in Chandigarh showed that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) played the role of spoiler for key political parties in at least 12 constituencies. The IDC’s analysis showed that the BSP played spoilsport for the Congress in five constituencies, for the SAD in two, for the BJP in one and for the AAP in four Assembly segments. This time, it is contesting in an alliance with the SAD.

As more parties are contesting this election, votes are bound to be divided. The AAP has been asking the voters to give it “a chance” against the “traditional” parties. But the SSM, which is not a “traditional” party and is also seeking votes against “traditional” parties such as the Congress, the SAD and the BJP, could split votes. Even AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal has admitted that his party could lose some votes on account of the presence of the SSM.

The Punjab Lok Congress, led by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh which is so far not being seen as a serious threat, may nevertheless upset the Congress’ candidates in a few seats.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt), breakaway Akali faction led by Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, could affect the SAD’s vote to some extent.

“Margins are not very big in the Assembly elections. What we are seeing is a three-cornered fight this time - the Congress, the SAD and the AAP. But the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha could be a “mega spoiler” in many seats.

In the Malwa belt, where the AAP has a relative foothold, the presence of the SSM could dent the AAP’s votes. In the Majha and Doaba region, its candidates would be a wild card as they could damage the electoral prospects of the SAD and the Congress candidates,” saidPramodKumar, director, Institute for Development and Communication.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 2:04:06 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/punjab-assembly/punjab-all-set-to-witness-multi-cornered-fight-in-assembly-elections/article38299421.ece