AAP's good show in Chandigarh civic polls has no bearing on outcome of Punjab Assembly election, say analysts

Though the Congress stood third in terms of the number of seats won by it in just-concluded Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls, it secured the highest number of votes in percentage terms

Representational image
Representational image

Bipin Bhardwaj

The unexpected gains made by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the cost of the BJP in Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (CMC) polls have taken its political opponent parties by surprise in the run up to the Punjab Assembly election.

Political observers have termed the CMC poll results as a clear mandate against the BJP for its arrogance while ruling at the Centre.

Though the Congress polled the highest share of votes, it stood at the third position in terms of seats won by it. Under the leadership of senior Congress leader and former Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, the Congress secured the highest vote share (29.79%), followed by the BJP (29.30%) and the AAP (27.08%).

The BJP, which had been riding high on ‘Modi magic’, saw a spectacular downfall as city voters outrightly rejected the saffron party. Factors such as high inflation due to Union govt’s policies and poor development and manyfold hike in water and electricity tariffs in Chandigarh which adversely affected a large section of the society seem to have spelled doom for the BJP. The conspicuous absence from the scene of the local Member of Parliament (MP), cine star Kirron Kher, who failed to fulfill her pre-poll promises, too contributed to the party’s poor show.

The AAP seems to have allured the voters by promising freebies such as free water, electricity and other facilities along the Delhi pattern.

Some political analysts opined that the development indicates that the people of Punjab may well want to give a chance to Kejriwal’s ‘development model’ in the state, though others rejected such a possibility. Taking a lead, the AAP has already launched its election campaign for the Punjab assembly elections. While the BJP and the Congress are yet to decide on ticket distribution, the AAP, as well as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), have already announced their candidates and started an aggressive campaign, they pointed out.

In 2017, the AAP had managed to win 20 seats in the Punjab Assembly to emerge as the primary opposition party, leaving behind the SAD-BJP alliance which secured 15 and 3 seats respectively. The Congress had won 77 seats in the 117 member House.

Now that it has emerged as the single largest party in the CMC, the AAP is in high spirits and hoping to grab power in Punjab, opine political pundits. The party’s national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal claims the party’s good show “is a sign of the ensuing change in Punjab”.

His deputy Manish Sisodia said, “The results in Chandigarh have made it clear that people are all set to give a chance to Kejriwal’s model of development, and they’ve broken the arrogance of those who do politics of hatred.”

Meanwhile, the BJP, which saw its decades-old alliance with SAD snap in the wake of the farmers’ protests against the three farm laws, is involved in a headhunting exercise in Punjab to identify potential candidates for the forthcoming elections. With virtually no hold in the rural parts of the state, it is on a hunting spree for influential and financially sound candidates to ensure a respectable show, Sanjeev Sharma, a Punjab-based political analyst said.

The BJP has even joined hands with former Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, who floated a new political outfit called ‘Punjab Lok Congress’ after a fallout with the Congress, and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa founder of Shiromani Akali Dal SAD (Sanyukt) for the Punjab polls.

The SAD, on its part, has chosen to ally with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ostensibly with an eye on Dalit voters. Punjab has a significant population of Dalit communities.

Chandigarh-based political observer Dr Pramod Kumar opined that the UT poll results are a clear mandate against the BJP. “The Congress, despite getting the highest vote share, seems to have suffered because a large number of Congress workers joined AAP. It is however near impossible for the AAP to replicate such a success in Punjab Assembly polls,” he said.

Brinder Singh Dhillon, Punjab Youth Congress president, termed the results of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation an ‘eye-opener’ for the party. He cautioned that going forward with conventional ways and taking a win in Punjab for granted will be a folly for the grand old party.

"Coming third despite getting the highest vote share of 29.79% calls for introspection to determine our weaknesses and make amends," he said.

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