With exit polls predicting Aam Aadmi Party's victory in Punjab, the party is looking forward to the results on Thursday with heightened expectations even as Congress leaders have also expressed confidence of retaining the state.If AAP wins Punjab, it will be the party's maiden victory in the state and a vast improvement from its performance in the 2017 elections when it had finished second behind Congress.
Congress went into the polls having battled factionalism and anti-incumbency. The party changed its chief minister in September last year even as new Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu hinted about his own chief ministerial ambitions. The Congress finally declared Charanjit Singh Channi, the first Dalit Chief Minister of Punjab, as its chief ministerial candidate days before the polling on February 20.The Shiromani Akali Dal, which had broken off its alliance with BJP over three farm laws that were eventually repealed, tied up with Bahujan Samaj Party for the assembly elections.
It is the first time that BJP fought over 65 seats in Punjab. It tied up with former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh's Punjab Lok Congress and SAD (Sanyukt) led by SS Dhindsa. BJP leaders have talked of putting up a strong performance in the polls.
AAP's chief ministerial candidate Bhagwant Mann exuded confidence of the party's victory on Wednesday."We talked about hospitals, schools, electricity (during campaigns). People have rejected other parties and good results will come tomorrow. I'm not an astrologer but I know people of Punjab want a change. The number of seats we can cross is 80 even 100," Mann told ANI.
Channi played down the prediction of exit polls and urged people to wait for the results."Only boxes (EVMs) will tell what has to happen. All of you, please wait till March 10," he said.Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal expressed hope of the party getting majority with its ally."SAD represents the voice of people. I hope God gives us the chance to do Seva of the people," he said.
Punjab Congress has called a meeting of the party's legislative party on Thursday evening.All necessary arrangements have been made for counting in the state which will start at 8 am.Punjab recorded an average voter turnout of 65.50 per cent on February 20 compared to over 77 per cent in 2017.
In the 117-member Punjab Assembly, the majority mark is 59.While Bhagwant Mann is contesting from the Dhuri, Channi is contesting from two seats - Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur.Amritsar (East) is also witnessing a key battle Sidhu is pitted against Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) Bikram Singh Majithia, who is the brother-in-law of SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal.Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is seeking re-election from the Patiala constituency.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal is contesting from Lambi seat.Exit polls on Monday predicted a clear victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab with the scale of the party's victory varying across various surveys.Several surveys predicted Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which is in power in Delhi, getting a landslide victory.
The surveys also predicted that the ruling Congress will finish a distant second in the state followed by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which had allied with Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP and its allies are not predicted to do well, according to the surveys.