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Exit polls in Punjab seem to have created more confusion for the state’s prominent parties -- especially the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal- BJP alliance and the Opposition Congress -- in their strategies to stake claim to form a government, even as the voters are keeping their fingers crossed on the eve of the counting tomorrow.
According to analysts, the state, which has until now been the battleground of two of the country’s oldest parties — the Congress and the SAD — may a witness triangle contest in some of the constituencies with the emergence of People’s Party of Punjab (PPP). That party, formed almost a year ago by ex-SAD member Manpreet Singh Badal, who is an estranged nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, may cut into the Akali vote-share its alliance.
Analysts now hold the view that neither the two main blocs may get a clear mandate, thus forcing them to seek help from Independents or the PPP in forming a government. It is in this case that post-result permutations and combinations become complicated and crucial for both rival contestants. The Congress is contesting all 117 seats, while the other alliance has its ticket distribution like this: SAD 94 and BJP 23. As for the last (1997) Assembly election, the Akali-BJP combine won 67 seats (SAD - 48, BJP -19), while the Congress won 44. Others won 5 seats even as the contest between the Congress and the SAD- BJP alliance was direct in most of the constituencies.
For now, both blocs are confident of an electoral victory this time. Many exit polls have given the Congress an edge over SAD-BJP to form the next government. Even so, veteran Badal, who is the SAD leader, claims that the results would go in favour of his alliance with the BJP. Last evening, Badal had said the Akali Dal would “create history” in Punjab by coming to power for a second consecutive term. On reports showing a drastic downfall for the SAD ally BJP, this is what he told reporters at his residence at Badal village: “The results will be different. It is better to wait till March 6.”
The Congress is confident of a win, as its leader Amarinder Singh has predicted “at least 70 seats” for his Congress. “I’m hopeful of form a government,” he added. To him, the Congress could win in 41 of the 68 seats in the Malwa region, besides16 seats each in Majha and Doaba regions. This would take the party tally to 73.
As for the relatively nascent PPP, its supremo Manpreet Singh Badal said the results would be “widely different” from what the exit polls predicted.
“ My party, alongwith our allies (mainly the Left) will do better than what has been predicted,” he added.