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Posted at: May 19, 2019, 6:47 AM; last updated: May 19, 2019, 5:46 PM (IST)

High-stakes battle for Punjab

Capt needs to ensure big win to retain position, Sukhbir to revive SAD

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 18

It’s a direct fight between the Congress and SAD-BJP in 12 of the 13 constituencies in Punjab, which go the polls on Sunday. The Congress is grappling with anti-incumbency and the Akalis sacrilege ‘taint’, even as the voter is unusually quiet. 

This Lok Sabha election is a litmus test for both Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. For Capt Amarinder, an impressive tally will help him retain his position as the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress, especially when his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa are pointing a finger at him.

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For Sukhbir, a creditable performance is necessary to revive his party that suffered an ignominious defeat in the 2017 Assembly elections. He and his wife Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal are contesting from Ferozepur and Bathinda. Sangrur is the only seat where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the reckoning. Here AAP state chief Bhagwant Mann is locked in a triangular fight with Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon and SAD’s Parminder Singh Dhindsa.

Gurdaspur, Patiala, Bathinda and Ferozepur seats are expected to see a keen contest. The fight in Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib will be interesting too. This has been a campaign high on rhetoric and optics with Congress and BJP top guns — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi — holding impressive rallies in support of party candidates. 

What was unique in these elections was assertive voters posing uncomfortable questions to candidates, demanding greater development and more jobs. On the back foot initially over the 2015 sacrilege incidents, especially in Malwa, the Akalis managed to bounce back by raking up the anti-Sikh riots, making it a 1984 versus Bargari contest.

Observers fear that a ‘disconnect’ between voters and candidates could mean only dedicated cadres of each party reaching the polling booths with fence-sitters choosing to abstain.

NUMBER GAME

PUNJAB TOTAL SEATS 13

Reserved seats 4

Total voters 2.03 crore

Male 1.07 crore

Female 96.19 lakh

Third gender 507

Voters below 40 47.17 lakh 

Polling stations 23,213

STATE SEATS

Uttar Pradesh 13

West Bengal 9

Bihar 8

Madhya Pradesh 8

Jharkhand 3

Chandigarh 1

VOTING IN 6 PHASES

66.88 PER CENT

Elections spread over 38 days

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