AAP hits Akali Dal, Congress hard in Punjab (State Election Analysis)
The AAP may not have bagged any Lok Sabha seats anywhere in the country except the four it "unexpectedly" won in Punjab, but the performance of its candidates in Punjab's 13 seats has left even party insiders stumped.
With its 24.4 percent vote share in its very first outing in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party was only next to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which got 26.3 percent votes.
The Akali Dal's alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), got 8.7 percent of the votes.
Two AAP candidates, actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur) and Sadhu Singh (Faridkot) returned with the two highest margins among all candidates in the state. Mann won by over 2.11 lakh votes while Sadhu Singh won by more than 1.72 lakh votes.
Two other seats that the AAP won were Patiala (cardiologist Dharam Vira Gandhi) and Fatehgarh Sahib (former diplomat Harinder Singh Khalsa).
"All seats won by the AAP are in the fertile Malwa belt (south of the Sutlej river). They got a lot of rural votes too," AAP activist Tarsem Singh of Sangrur told IANS.
In the Jalandhar constituency, AAP candidate Jyoti Mann polled over 2.54 lakh votes even though she finished third. The Akali Dal candidate here lost to the Congress by just over 70,000 votes.
AAP candidate for Hoshiarpur seat Yamini Gomar also got over 2.13 lakh votes, finishing third. The BJP candidate here won by just over 13,500 votes.
In the Ludhiana constituency, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka lost by just over 19,000 votes to Congress candidate Ravneet Bittu. Phoolka polled 2.56 lakh votes. The Akali Dal and an Independent respectively got over 2.56 lakh and 2.1 lakh votes.
In all 13 constituencies in the state, AAP candidates got votes ranging from 82,600 to over 5.33 lakh.
The Akali Dal and AAP ended up with four seats each, while the BJP managed to bag two seats.
The Congress, with 33.1 percent votes, could manage only three seats. These included Amritsar, where former chief minister Amarinder Singh defeated senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley by over one lakh votes in a bitterly contested election.
For the Akali Dal, the victory in three of its four seats was hardly convincing. The margins in the three seats - Bathinda (Harsimrat Badal, wife of Akali Dal president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal), Anandpur Sahib and Ferozepur - were low, 19,395, 23,697 and 31,420 respectively.
"The AAP affected votes of the Akali Dal and the Congress in a big way. The fact that the AAP central leadership never concentrated on Punjab and yet the state gave the AAP all its four seats speaks volumes of how much the voters were looking for a third option," AAP activist Sunil Arora told IANS.
The inroads made by the AAP in just 2-3 months could be a wake-up call for both the Akali Dal and the Congress.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Posted on 17-05-2014)