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BJP leadership may be unsure of its prospects in Punjab, where it is in government headed by ally Shiromani Akali Dal, but is banking on SAD President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s political smarts and election management skills to surprise rivals as polls approach.
“He (Sukhbir) is confident and we believe in him. There were doubts about our chances in 2012 Assembly polls as well but he was confident and turned out to be correct even though Congress had begun celebrating before the votes were counted. He is a skillful politician,” a top BJP leader said.
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Beating the odds, SAD-BJP alliance had returned to power in 2012 with Akalis doing better than the saffron party in terms of strike rate.
The surprise success was then put down to shrewd poll management of Badal, who had taken a lead role in overseeing the polls with his father and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal keeping away from the hustle and bustle.
Akalis had got better of Congress by small margins in a number of seats and many believed that Sukhbir outsmarted the Opposition by tactically propping up Independents and better micro-level management.
As Amarinder Singh-led Congress fancies its chances after staying out of power for a decade and AAP too emerging as a formidable force, political watchers believe that the odds are stacked against the NDA.
BJP sources said their alliance might have lost on perception due to a “shrill” campaign by Opposition parties, especially AAP which has targeted Badals over drug menace and corruption, but are hopeful of a comeback due to “visible development” in the state under the Badal government and division of votes due to tripolar contests.