After Uttar Pradesh, Punjab will be the state keenly tracked by analysts, psephologists and politicians, given that it's not a two-cornered contest in the state this time. The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a strong contender in the Assembly elections that took place on February 4, having fielded as many as 111 candidates across the state.
In the past, the state has witnessed a straight fight between the Congress and the SAD-BJP coalition (Shiromani Akali Dal-Bhartiya Janata Party). It will be interesting to see how the SAD-BJP combine performs in the elections for a third term. The coalition has fielded candidates for all the 117 seats (94 by SAD and 23 by BJP) while the Congress is contesting in 116 constituencies.
The stakes are not high for the BJP, given that anti-incumbency of 10 years and corruption charges against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family are expected to dent its chances.
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The Congress will be making a desperate bid, given that it now has negligible presence in North India, except Himachal Pradesh.
Counting of votes will be done on March 11 along with that for other states — Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.
Will AAP repeat its 2014 performance?
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The AAP won four of the 13 parliamentary seats in Punjab in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections despite the "Modi wave" that swept most parts of the country. The performance raised hopes for Kejriwal whose party decimated the BJP and the Congress in the Delhi Assembly polls in the next year.
However, the AAP may not have sustained its momentum it had in the run up to the polls that were held on February 4.
A recent analysis on the basis of Google trends suggests "interests in the party (AAP) may have waned over time."
In other words, the Congress may pip the AAP with the SAD-BJP finishing third.
Highlights of the polls held in Punjab:
Total Assembly seats: 117
Total no. of candidates: 1,145
Women candidates: 81
Male voters: 1.05 crore
Female voters: 93.75 lakh
Total voters (including others): 1.98 crore
The biggest poll issue in the state was that of rampant drug abuse, allegedly involving a senior SAD politician Bikram Singh Majithia. Besides, charges of corruption and misuse of power by the Badal family comprising Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, the deputy chief minister, also dominated the campaign's narrative.