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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Punjab likely to see hung Assembly with AAP on top: Survey

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress are projected to poll 39 per cent and 34 per cent votes, respectively, in Punjab, which is going to the polls next year, as per the third ABP News-CVoter Battle for the States Tracker.

But despite the lead in vote share, AAP may not win a majority out of 117 seats due to regional distribution of voter-base, as per the Tracker.

Also, Congress is benefiting from its Mayawati moment by installing the first Dalit CM in the state. The move is consolidating its hold over Dalit voters.

This brings us to the conclusion that this is a waveless election in Punjab. For all the political and social turmoil witnessed in the state, the electorate is remarkably split in its expression. If this situation continues to hold for another month, then we may see a hung Vidhan Sabha in Punjab with AAP emerging as the single largest party, closely followed by Congress.

The current projections are based on CVoter daily tracking poll conducted between November 13 and December 9, among 18+ adults, including likely voters.

As for the methodology and survey details, the survey reached out to a total of approximately 92,000+ persons across five states (UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa). It was conducted through CATI (telephonic survey). The same is also expected to have a margin of error of ±3 to ±5 per cent and may not necessarily have factored in all the criteria.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is down but not out, it is expected to poll 20 per cent votes and may win around 20 seats in the Badal family strongholds. Currently it seems to be out of reckoning, but the party’s performance will most certainly act as the tie-breaker between AAP and Congress.

The Amarinder Singh-BJP alliance does not seem to be adding up to anything significant. Currently, the vote share and seat share of the grouping is projected to remain in lower single digits. However, the alliance’s performance may influence the fate of around 30 seats.

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is preferred by 33 per cent voters as CM in 2022 polls. Interestingly, this number corresponds to the headcount of Dalit population in Punjab. Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu is preferred by only 5 per cent voters, Arvind Kejriwal is preferred by 24 per cent voters and Sukhbir Singh Badal is the choice of 18 per cent voters.

Regionally, the Dalit population is more concentrated in Doaba and Majha regions of Punjab that account for a total of 48 seats. The Congress is projected to win 28 out of its 42 seats from these two regions. AAP is doing significantly better in Malwa region that accounts for the remaining 69 seats. It is expected to win 41 of its 53 seats from Malwa alone.

Therefore, the three X factors that will ultimately decide the Punjab verdict 2022 are the relative sweep of AAP and Congress in their respective strongholds, the performance of Akali Dal and its potential impact on AAP and Congress, and the ability of Amarinder Singh to dent the prospects of Congress.

For now, despite a re-energised and repositioned political stance, Congress is facing more headwinds than AAP. Also, the rural peasantry, fresh from the protests at Singhu border, is unlikely to fully trust the Akali Dal or the Congress. Both these parties have baggage with Jat farmers who dominate the rural polity.

In terms of Jat Sikh politics, the survey projections are indicative of an emerging vacuum. From 1997-2021, Punjab saw a duopoly of Badal-Amarinder, but currently no leader is polling enough support to inherit the mantle of Jat leadership. Sukhbir Badal is liked by some sections, while others prefer Bhagwant Mann. Navjot Sidhu’s theatrics have not helped him gain traction in state politics, despite the outsized media imagery projected.

Regardless of AAP’s continued lead, there is a distinct possibility of amplification of the current trend of convergence with Congress’ vote share. If the race tightens any further, the eventual outcome will be decided on a seat-by-seat basis.

Therefore, candidate selection may become very important.

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