Punjab Legislative Assembly Elections 2017 – What To Expect
Punjab Opinion Poll 2017
2017 Assembly Elections – Setting The Trend
2017 is an important year for those interested in Indian political developments. This year shall witness the state assembly elections of a number of 7 states in the country – Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Of these, the assembly elections of Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh are important since they shall be indicative of the trends that we are likely to see in the general elections of 2019. Besides, the assembly elections of these major states are likely to have a bearing on the composition of the Rajya Sabha in the years to come. Rajya Sabha members are elected by the state assemblies through a processes defined by the constitution of India. The ruling party at the centre, BJP and PM Narendra Modi himself are likely to be very actively involved in the campaigning for the assembly elections of Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.
Read : UP Opinion Poll 2017
Punjab Legislative Assembly Elections 2017
According to the Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, VK Singh, the state assembly polls of the state are scheduled to be held between the last week of January 2017 and the first week of February 2017. The state has a total population of about 2,95,23,569 (projected figures as of September 2016) and among these about 1,99,49,125 are eligible to exercise their right to vote. The election commission is undertaking a massive exercise to include all these names in the voters list and to eliminate any loophole that may cause bogus votes to be cast. The Vidhan Sabha of Punjab is composed of 117 elected members. This means that there are 117 constituencies that will go to polls next year. The main parties to look out for include the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Indian National Congress(INC), Awaaz-e-Punjab, and the Apna Punjab.
A Look At The Parties
SAD – BJP Alliance – In the 2012 Punjab state assembly elections the SAD won about 54 of the 94 seats from which its candidates contested. This gave the the party about 42.19 percent seats in the state assembly by itself. The party’s alliance partner, BJP won some 12 more seats bringing the alliance a clear victory and bringing Parkash Singh Badal to the Chief Minister’s office for a second consecutive term.
Four years down the lane, however, the “Badal sarkaar” is facing a tough time when it comes to its 2017 prospects. Despite the massive advertising and chest-thumping activities of the SAD-BJP combine, the anti-incumbency wave in Punjab is a marked one. The general perception is that the government has not done much to tackle corruption and drugs, the two major problems the state is grappling with.
AAP – Earlier, in December 2015, the AAP had announced its intentions of campaigning industriously and taking Punjab by storm. It is true that the party did manage to create an initial spark in the state and has won over many NRI patrons besides roping in Sikh voters especially from rural Punjab. Enthusiastic party workers predict that the Punjab assembly elections shall be a repeat of the Delhi assembly polls in which AAP held sway. This shall be AAP’s maiden performance in Punjab as the party had not been formed during the previous assembly elections. It, however, seems that the AAP has been losing steam over the past few weeks. Kejriwal’s tour and the release of manifesto in the state were not received with as much enthusiasm as anticipated. The fact that there is no news on the AAP chief ministerial candidate yet is a matter of worry.
INC – The Congress had been the only viable alternative to the SAD-BJP combine before the entry of the AAP. In the 2012 assembly elections, INC candidates has contested from all 117 constituencies of the state but had managed to place only 46 MLAs. Punjab largely finds Congress as a poor choice and may even prefer the AAP to the INC in many parts. The AAP is likely to gain from the anti-INC and anti-incumbency sentiments that are riding the state electorate. The INC in Punjab is led by Captain Amarinder Singh.
Awaaz-e-Punjab – The Awaaz-e-Punjab is a newly launched party led by cricketer (and former BJP leader) Navjot Singh Sidhu with Pargat Singh and MLAs from the state, Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwant Singh Bains. While Sidhu and the others claim that the party intends to raise a voice against corruption in the state, the ambivalence of its leaders is not faith instilling. It is highly likely that in the weeks to come, Awaaz-e-Punjab may enter into a coalition with either the AAP or the INC.
Aapna Punjab – Another party to look out for will be the Aapna Punjab Party (APP) launched by former Aam Aadmi Party leader and Punjab convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur. Chhotepur has promised to field candidates or at least lend his support to candidates in all the 117 constituencies. If the heavyweights cut it close, an alliance with Aapna Punjab may come in handy.
Opinion Poll And Analysis
According to the results of the India Today-Axis Opinion Poll, the INC is likely to emerge as the largest party in the state by bagging between 49 and 55 seats in the upcoming assembly elections. This may put the party on a back foot in the sense it shall be a few seats short of the 59 seats needed to grant it a simple majority. It is likely that the Congress will bridge the gap by joining hands with Sidhu’s Awaaz-e-Punjab, says the opinion poll. AAP, which has generated a great deal of excitement and hope in the state, may also fall short of a simple majority, hurt by internal dissent. The AAP is likely to gain between 42 and 46 assembly seats, the opinion poll predicts.
Overall by the looks of it, the assembly elections of 2017 seem to be a fiercely contested close run. Typically in such a scenario, the small parties and independent candidates joining a coalition hold great bargaining power. It goes without saying, though that the ultimate power lies with the people of Punjab.