National Election Study 2014 National

The real star in Punjab is AAP

The Punjab verdict is bad news for the two mainstream alliances in the State and signals the rise of a third alternative

Punjab was among the few States that bucked the national trend in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by denying its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) an outright victory. The ruling combine managed to add only two seats to its 2009 tally by winning six (SAD: 4, BJP: 2) of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the State, with four seats going to the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and three to the Congress.

In many ways, the real star of the election in Punjab was the AAP, which managed to secure nearly one-fourth of the total votes polled, thereby emerging as a third alternative in what has traditionally been a bipolar contest between the SAD-BJP and the Congress. It was in the Malwa belt that the AAP registered its best performance picking up all its four seats (Sangrur, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala) with an overall vote share of 29 per cent in the region. Of the nine seats that the AAP could not win, it finished third in eight, and in seven of these eight seats, it polled more votes than the margin of victory of the winning candidate.

The AAP dented both >the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress. The CSDS Lokniti post-poll survey shows that 13 per cent of traditional Congress supporters and 17 per cent of SAD-BJP supporters voted for Kejriwal’s party. The AAP performed much better than expected across age groups, classes, castes and communities and localities and its performance is particularly noteworthy among some sections. Among the Hindu Other Backward Classes, four of every 10 voted for the newcomer. Upper class, youth, college educated and urban voters also gave the AAP a strong advantage over its opponents (See table).

What explains the AAP’s spectacular rise in Punjab’s politics? The post-poll data suggest that the AAP benefited from the anger against the Congress-led Union government as well as the anger against the SAD-BJP government. Disgruntled with both governments, many voters opted for the AAP, which succeeded in presenting itself as a viable alternative. About three-fourths of the respondents were of the view that the State government had failed in curbing the menace of drugs. Close to half the respondents felt the government failed in controlling farmers’ suicides. Price rise, corruption and unemployment were the other major issues. The AAP, it seems, was ahead of other parties in raising these issues. The survey data show that AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is very popular in Punjab.

The Punjab verdict is bad news for the two mainstream alliances in the State and signals the rise of a third alternative.

(Jagrup Singh Sekhon teaches Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab. Ashutosh Kumar teaches Political Science at Panjab University, Chandigarh)

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:34:59 AM |

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