Heavy voting in Punjab: Who will pay the price ?

Chandigarh : Having set a new record with 76.63 percent voting in Punjab’s election to 117 assembly seats, voters have left the main parties and leaders in a state of anxiety till the results finally come out March 6.

Each of the three main players in Punjab’s political spectrum this time, the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine, the Congress and the newly floated People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), are claiming that Monday’s heavy voting will go in its favour. But the ground reality for all of them and their leaders is that the high voter turnout has increased the uncertainty.

The 76.63 percent voting this time by the state’s 17,683,559 voters, 8,361,014 of whom were women, was higher than the previous voting record set in the state in the 2007 assembly polls. At that time, 75.47 percent of the electorate had cast their vote and the Akali Dal-BJP had come into power with 68 seats.

While the Akali Dal-BJP is now claiming that the high turnout was due to the “pro-incumbency” factor, the opposition Congress is sure that the high percentage would vote out the present government led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

“The Congress is certain to get more than 70 seats in the elections. The very fact that people voted in overwhelming numbers all across the state is a clear indication that people were upset with the Akali-BJP government and they came out to vote against the government’s misrule and non-performance,” Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who spearheaded the Congress campaign, said after voting ended.

“We are confident that people have reposed faith in us and the results are likely to go beyond our expectations. The feedback we are getting is that the Congress is forming the next government in Punjab.”

Even the betting syndicate is putting its money on the Congress to come to power this time. Counting of votes takes place March 6.

But the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance too is showing no signs of giving up the fight.

“People have turned out in huge numbers to vote so that the development initiated by us continues. We will win at least 80 seats this time,” said a confident Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who took charge of the Akali campaign this time.

PPP, floated last year by former finance minister and the politically estranged nephew of the chief minister, Manpreet Badal, is also confident about the outcome of heavy voting.

“The heavy voting shows that the people are frustrated with both (Akali Dal and Congress). We have emerged as a potent third alternative in Punjab,” Manpreet said.
The public posturing of the parties and their leaders notwithstanding, candidates themselves are a little worried by the turnout.

“It can be anyone’s game now. In a high turnout, you never know which way it will go. Since there was no wave in anyone’s favour this time, things will remain uncertain till March 6. Let’s see,” a Congress legislator, seeking re-election from the Malwa belt, said .

The fertile Malwa belt (areas south of Sutlej river), which has 65 assembly seats, voted in good numbers. The average voting in districts in this belt was around 80 percent (79.46 exact).

Guru Har Sahai (90 percent), Gidderbaha (88.70), Malerkotla (87.71), Lambi (86), Rampura Phul (86), Faridkot (85), Sardulgarh (85), Sunam (85), Lehra (85), Ghanaur (85), Fazilka (85), Fatehgarh Sahib, Dakha, Bagha Purana, Dirba and Bhadaur (all 84 percent), saw some of the heaviest polling in the Malwa belt.

In comparison, the Doaba (area between Sutlej and Beas rivers) and Majha belt (area north of Beas river) saw slightly lesser voting at an average of 76.44 and 72.15 percent. The least voting, 56 percent, was in the Amritsar-west seat.

At least 41 assembly seats saw voting in excess of 80 percent.

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