Congress gets Punjab comfort, why AAP was left a distant second

The SAD-BJP combine, following two successive terms at the helm, was reduced to third place this time with 15 seats.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev , Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi/chandigarh | Published:March 12, 2017 5:16 am
Punjab election results 2017, Punjab poll results, Punjab, Amarinder singh, Punjab chief minister, Punjab assembly elections 2017, Congress, congress punjab, Punjab congress, punjab congress wins, BJP, SAD, BJP-SAD alliance, sidhu, navjot singh sidhu, punjab seats, punjab news, aap, india news, indian express news Amarinder with Congress Punjab in-charge Asha Kumari in Chandigarh. (Source: Express photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Captain Amarinder Singh is all set to be the Chief Minister of Punjab — for the second time in his political career — after the Congress recorded an impressive victory in the state by wresting 77 of the 117 seats in the assembly election result announced Saturday. The SAD-BJP combine, following two successive terms at the helm, was reduced to third place this time with 15 seats.

But with just 20 seats and a vote share of about 24 per cent, the party that seems to have got its poll calculations all wrong in the state is the other main contender, AAP, which ended a distant second.

As Amarinder thanked voters for giving him the “biggest birthday gift” — he turned 75 Saturday — the only consolation for AAP was that it will get to play the role of the main opposition.

While opinion will remain divided on the main reason behind the AAP’s poor performance — it could not even reach the one-fifth mark in the 117-member house — here is why the party may have, for the moment at least, ruled themselves out of a bigger national role in the run-up to 2019:

LACK OF A CM FACE: While the Congress had a strong chief ministerial candidate in Amarinder and the SAD-BJP alliance banked on the tested leadership of Parkash Singh Badal, the AAP refused to project a name. The Congress and SAD-BJP played upon the fears of Panthic Sikh voters by claiming that AAP would bring an outsider if it won — Arvind Kejriwal or even Sanjay Singh, who played a key role in the campaign but belongs to UP. By the time, Kejriwal clarified in the middle of the campaign that he would not shift to Punjab, it was too late.

FOCUS ON MALWA: With 69 seats at stake in Malwa, AAP took a huge gamble by channelising most of its resources and energy in the state’s biggest region. Its campaign in the other two regions – Doaba and Majha — remained a non-starter, except for the high-decibel campaign in Majitha, the home turf of SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, whom the AAP accuses of being behind the illegal drug trade. The party had hoped that its Majitha campaign would have a ripple effect in the Majha region, with 25 constituencies. And that support from NRIs, mostly from the Doaba region (23 seats), would help it form the next government. But AAP got only 18 seats from Malwa, two from Doaba and none from Majha.

CANDIDATE SELECTION: Most AAP candidates were freshers with no previous voter connect. By the time their names were announced and the campaign picked up, there was little time left to establish their base. The party’s strategy of projecting Kejriwal as the face while keeping its candidates in the background did not work. It didn’t help that there were allegations of sale of tickets, too.

INFIGHTING, CHHOTEPUR EXIT: Last August, AAP decided to throw out Sucha Singh Chhotepur, the man responsible for building the party in the state, on what many said were trumped up charges. But it only reinforced the rivals’ allegation that Kejriwal would not let any other leader in the party become popular. Even though Chhotepur got only 1,740 votes in the Gurdaspur constituency, contesting on his Aapna Punjab Party symbol, his ouster along with some of his followers added to the anti-AAP sentiment among voters. Besides, two of the four AAP MPs who won from Punjab in 2014 were suspended over minor differences with the leadership.

OVER-CONFIDENCE: The AAP may have miscalculated its support based on the huge crowds that came to listen to Kejriwal and comedian-turned-MP Bhagwant Mann at their rallies. Mann lost by 18,500 votes to Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. There was also the general perception that the AAP campaign had peaked in the middle of last year and that it was destined to go downhill once other parties pitched their poll tents.

SAD RETAINED CORE VOTERS: AAP projected a severe erosion in the core votebank of the SAD and hoped that a majority of that would come its way. But despite the defeat, SAD held on to its core, netting 25.2 per cent votes, which was more than that of AAP (23.7 per cent). As for the anti-incumbency and floating vote factors, the results show that most of these went to the Congress.

WHAT NEXT: Despite its underwhelming performance, AAP has emerged as a potent force in Punjab and will have ample space to show its worth as the main opposition. With Amarinder likely to be saddled with empty coffers and huge loans, AAP will get plenty of opportunity to raise issues related to farmers and other marginalised sections of voters, thereby gaining the respect of the populace. What would also come as consolation for AAP are the wins recorded by its other leaders H S Phoolka, Kanwar Sandhu and Sukhpal Khaira from Dakha, Kharar and Bholath, respectively.

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  1. B
    Bharat
    Mar 12, 2017 at 8:20 am
    AAP make fools of Delhi voters by delivering zero - Punjab could see through that
    Reply
    1. H
      Haary
      Mar 12, 2017 at 8:13 am
      No Khalistan no AAP.
      Reply
      1. R
        Raghavan
        Mar 12, 2017 at 5:13 pm
        I believe that the Punjab electorate are wiser in selecting someone or party tangible whom they can hold accountable; this is in contrast to the delusional ditherers elected by by a dreaming electorate of Delhites. Smoke and mirrors will not sustain for more than a short duration.
        Reply
        1. K
          k
          Mar 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm
          Dear. Please think who works in state for electricity. It is state and not cnetral govt. Think logically and dont go by watsapp informations.
          Reply
          1. D
            Dr.Damodar Biswal
            Mar 12, 2017 at 6:28 am
            AAP lost Punjab because of overconfidence n befriending Sidhu.Sidhu is a crucial factor in Punjab.Congress vote share increased because of him.
            Reply
            1. A
              Against Sick
              Mar 12, 2017 at 7:41 am
              IE has not so cleaverly trying to hide the real reason behind AAP debacle in Punjab. The real reason being the proximity of AAP with ISI backed Khalistani terrorists. The nation loving people of Punjab became very uncomfortable with this hobnobbing of AAP with anti-India forces
              Reply
              1. D
                Dharmesh
                Mar 12, 2017 at 9:14 am
                AAP should march ahead in all states and have their presence felt in all emblies ASAP irrespective of victory or defeat. Even if it is 5% or 100% just keep marching ahead, people want a change, they will some realise in in 5 years that BJP is like Cong the other side of the same dirty GUTTER COIN. So I hope AAP continues to March ahead and next step should be to dent CONG and BJP in Gujarat.
                Reply
                1. G
                  Giri Gowda
                  Mar 12, 2017 at 11:16 am
                  HAhaHA... Where is Cong in Gujarat..?? Now BJP has sufficiently dented every mullahs dreams to rule and oppress women and children in the name of religion..
                  Reply
                  1. G
                    Gurmail Singh
                    Mar 12, 2017 at 5:10 am
                    Aap was overconfident and claiming not less than 100 seats with most of their leaders from outside punjab were trying to befool the punjabis. But they don't that we are not so. We have 5 ministers in Canadian cabinet and know each and every thing about such type of politics.
                    Reply
                    1. J
                      Joy
                      Mar 12, 2017 at 9:03 am
                      BJP see only UP victory as victory. in Punjab Congress won handsomely, in Goa Congress almost captured from BJP. In Manipur Congress is only 3 seats less.. It will not be easy for BJP or any other party to write off Congres. This BJP victory is a surprise even for them. BJP have only one leader ie., Modi. How long they will rely on this one man show...?
                      Reply
                      1. J
                        Jagar Singh
                        Mar 12, 2017 at 8:18 am
                        AAP expressed support for Sharmila:she got 90 votes.
                        Reply
                        1. J
                          Jagar Singh
                          Mar 12, 2017 at 8:19 am
                          Overhyped/
                          Reply
                          1. J
                            Jagar Singh
                            Mar 12, 2017 at 8:14 am
                            Two UPites ruined the Sikh empire.Punjabis prevented repeat of history.
                            Reply
                            1. K
                              kaladhar
                              Mar 12, 2017 at 2:03 am
                              AAP is a party run by a most arrogant and egoist leader, who suddenly by winning in Delhi has started uming that he could win any elections anywhere and can become prime minister by 2019. And his cronies are failed journalists, corrupt NGO owners and a half backed intellectuals who somehow wants to ride the train of fame and prosperity but through ill political means. They have been taught a real good lesson by peoples of Goa and Punjab. But surely rants of the moron Khujli will still continue.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                kamath Ramesh
                                Mar 12, 2017 at 8:20 am
                                It is good that paap has lost not just in punjab even in goa they could not win any seat. It shows abusive politics has no place. It is good that SAD got higher vote share than paap, unfortunately SAD got lower seats.
                                Reply
                                1. J
                                  jew
                                  Mar 12, 2017 at 4:57 am
                                  Very clear that BJP voter voted for Congress. Both ganged up to keep aap out.lt;br/gt;Shows the need for alternate politics is more acute than ever before.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Don't lose heart. Keep fighting.
                                  Reply
                                  1. M
                                    madhav
                                    Mar 12, 2017 at 6:40 am
                                    The defeat in Punjab is not end of politics for AAP. But vote share of 25% approximate is a good point. Do not loose your heart. Keep working in the gr route level. Spread the ideology and message to the mes. Once they are tired of their Kings, they will come back the Aam Aadmi.
                                    Reply
                                    1. N
                                      Niladrinath Mohanty
                                      Mar 12, 2017 at 5:50 am
                                      Constant use of intemperate language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Arvind Kejriwal was not like by many sensible people.
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        Raju Menon
                                        Mar 12, 2017 at 3:10 am
                                        Finally bunch of opportunists (AAP) are shown their place by Punjab. Arvind Kejriwal, Sanjay Singh, Aashutosh, Ragha Chaddha, are opportunists who wanted to hijack some state governance to promote their masters' anti-India intentions.
                                        Reply
                                        1. I
                                          Indian
                                          Mar 12, 2017 at 11:31 am
                                          Dear Dharmesh,lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Before your love for Kejriwal, please try to think why people at the ground supported BJP. In the past two years BJP electrified 1464 villages in UP, provided gas connection and subsidized LED bulbs to every household saving the exchequer 980Cr. BSP electrified 28 villages in 5 years, SP electrified 3.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Apart from these:lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;1. Urea production is the highestlt;br/gt;2. Coal production is the highest.lt;br/gt;3. You can get pport in a weeklt;br/gt;4. A NRI is heard in a tweet!lt;br/gt;5. Landmark deals with bangladesh ensured 1000s of families with some ideny and plugged illegal immigration.lt;br/gt;6. Read world media's view of India. You will see that it is way more positive today.lt;br/gt;7. Look at adopted village of Modi today. In two years every farm has an array of solar panels, getting free elcetricity fo rthemselves and sending the rest to the grid. They have running water.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;For the first time, things are moving in India and instead of being part of this movement and strengthening it further, you want to stand by that mud slinger. That empty vessel only makes noise.
                                          Reply
                                          1. I
                                            indian
                                            Mar 12, 2017 at 9:48 am
                                            For a woman who pered UP's treasury to build monumental elephantine parks and the nest of vipers projecting themselves as Yuva netas but who also deepen and exploit sectarian and religious differences for their own political gains,have finally been EXPOSED of their betrayal and deception and exploitation of the poor Yadavs, Dalits and and Muslims for their votebanks by this time being rejected by these poor in favour of a poor but scruplously honest and hardworking PM Modi and the BJP to make a difference to their struggling survival by offering them help and support to lift them from poverty.
                                            Reply
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