In the current round of Assembly elections in five States, the distinguishing feature of the two States that went to polls on Saturday — Punjab and Goa — in single-phase elections, was the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the fray as a force to reckon with. Despite AAP’s poor record of governance in Delhi where it had swept to power two years ago riding on high expectations, there is a perceptible mood for change which it is expected to benefit from in the State elections. Both States recorded historic turnouts — 78.62 per cent in Punjab and 83 per cent in Goa.
Whether this reflects an urge for change and would favour the new emergence of AAP only time will tell. This is indeed AAP’s chance to prove that it is not just a Delhi party. That Punjab was the only State where it won some seats in the Lok Sabha elections (four) indicates that the initial spadework had already been done.
Punjab could well end up with a hung verdict and in that event there could well be a Congress-AAP coalition since the BJP is a virtual untouchable for both parties. That over 80 per cent polling was recorded in Malwa region which accounts for 69 seats of a total of 117 seats in the Assembly seems an encouraging factor for AAP which has made substantial inroads in that region.
But the Congress, energised by Amarinder Singh’s leadership, could well be an important player. As for the Akali-BJP combine, it is plagued by anti-incumbency and with having to bear the cross of the mismanagement of the drugs and law and order issues. But if the recent high-decibel campaign against AAP for commiserating with extremists drills fear into people of the return of militancy, many voters could fall back on the incumbent Akali-BJP combine. That this would be sufficient to offset the gains of AAP, however, seems unlikely.
As for Goa, while the BJP’s gambit of bringing Manohar Parrikar back to the State as chief minister if it wins could work to the benefit of the party, the fact that not only the AAP but also the MGP (Maharashtra Gomantak Party), an erstwhile ally of the BJP, and a former RSS leader Subhash Velinkar are new challengers to the BJP, besides the Congress, could pose some challenge to the ruling party. Nevertheless, the BJP seems to have an edge.
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