In the green fields of Ferozepur and Faridkot, Modi is being projected not as communal, but “anti-farmer”, by the Congress and AAP. The two parties have raised the issue of the Modi government’s ouster of 400 Punjabis settled in Gujarat for the past four decades. The BJP, on the other hand, has been at pains to explain its position on the issue. Both seats are held by its alliance partner, SAD. In the border seat of Ferozepur, the Congress has also tried to imply that Modi’s “communal” stance could lead to a confrontation with Pakistan and the first to be affected would be Punjab farmers.
The Congress also tried to project Modi as “anti-minorities” in order to antagonise Sikhs but does not seem to have made much impact. However, in Sangrur seat’s Malerkotla assembly segment, Modi’s “communal” image may work, as it has a large Muslim population. The SAD, too, made no mention of Modi in its campaigns in Malerkotla.
On the other hand, in its campaigns in Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Bathinda, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, the SAD banked on Modi, saying as head of the NDA, his government at the Centre will sanction more funds for Punjab. Despite sitting Congress MP Manish Tewari not contesting from Ludhiana, SAD will not have an easy battle. It’s candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali is facing strong opposition in AAP’s HS Phoolka and Independent Simerjit Singh Bains .
Amid a strong wave of double-anti-incumbency against the SAD-BJP in the state and the UPA at the Centre, AAP can possibly emerge as a strong third alternative. The AAP senior leadership claims to have been surprised at the “tremendous” response received by their candidates.
“AAP was a movement and only now will organise itself as a party in Punjab,” says Dr Pramod Kumar, of Institute of Communication and Development, Chandigarh.
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Political observers view AAP differently from Manpreet Badal’s PPP that could not make much mark in the Assembly polls in 2012 by polling less than 5 per cent votes.
The AAP is expected to have polled a sizeable number of votes in Sangrur, Faridkot, Patiala, Gurdaspur and Ludhiana.