PUNJAB- THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION - ARE CHANCES OF AAP BRIGHT?
What happens in Punjab? It is million dollar question that is baffling political observers. AAP is gung-ho about its prospects of repeating a Delhi. Going by the anti-incumbency on the SAD-BJP government that ruled for ten years, it seems not out of place for AAP's optimism. Is it over-optimistic? As far as AAP is concerned, it starts early in campaigning, declares candidates early ad pumps in funds early. But this time, the first was right. It started early. "The early bird catches the worm" is a famous saying. Those who start early in a race, reach the destination early. But "slow and steady wins the race" is another saying. We see in the 100-Meter Race that the first sprinter in the race till the 80th Meter is overtaken by the second, third or the fourth sprinter. There is a reason. The one who picks up speed early and exhausts his energy early gets tired early and the runners-up one, two, three may catch up.
There is another possibility. The one that starts early, runs fast, develops over-confidence in his ability to reach the destination tends to rest a bit in the middle or the forces acting on him may try to hamper his progress. It may not be without reason Congress, the automatic choice due to the incumbency factor seems neither unduly worried nor is making any outward effort to boast its chances. We know the story of the rabbit and the turtle.The rabbit that can go a tremendous speed is complacent in the middle of the race and sleeps in the middle. The turtle, though very slow, overtakes the rabbit and wins the race.
But, we can not just write-off the AAP. It started early, got many psephologists predict a clean sweep by the party winning as many as 100 seats. This seems a far cry given the vote distribution in the General elections of 2014. I had occasion to go through two opinion polls. Both surveys were conducted with one month gap. The C-Voter- Huffington Post poll gives 100 seats on the up-end to AAP and 94 on the low-end. The India Today ORG Marg poll gives a clear edge for Congress and AAP stands in third position. (I am not sure)
The polls were done in January, by India Today and February by C-Voter.
As stated earlier, the first bird may catch the worm and as another saying goes," The second mouse may get the cheese. " It is said that the first mouse that goes for the cheese enters the Mouse-Trap, opens the shutter, goes in and gets caught. But the second mouse has the shutter open, goes in, takes the cheese and walks away the winner.
It seems working the way the second saying goes for AAP, in its over-enthusiasm to get the cheese. While the opinion polls (not always reliable) were done in January-February, two news items that circulated during June, 2016 throw a few interesting facts. First let us take this report that appeared in the First Post.
What does it say?
"AAP today is in deep trouble. The party had planned to reap rich harvest from the release of youth manifesto from different sections of the public in Punjab to be able to gain substantial lead over other rival parties but the opposite has happened and AAP is paying the price for its over-enthusiasm much to the chagrin of the Akalis,
BJP and the Congress who are leaving no chance to put AAP in the dock."But the subsequent controversy over the issue of superimposing the AAP symbol-broom on the front page of the manifesto alongside the picture of Sri Harmandar Sahib, and the statement of AAP leader Ashish Khetan equating the manifesto to the Guru Granth Sahib created such a furore
Leave aside stealing a march over the political rivals, AAP has been forced on the backfoot now, which is much to the liking of the rival parties. The party is also facing trouble on the other front because one of its members, Delhi legislator Naresh Yadav, is in deep trouble in the Quaran burning issue in the Muslim-dominated Malerkotla town on 24 June.
What is stated supra is self-explanatory. Needs no further elaboration. The net result is the first sprinter till the 80th Meter is now on back-foot. We can tell the author of the news "rem acu tetigisti" (You have hit the nail on the head)
Now, Let us take up the other news item. This appeared in the Times Group in June of this year.
What does it say?
The AAP leadership in the state is now grappling with problems like finding a face to project as its chief ministerial candidate, deciding on tickets for the 117 assembly seats and even keeping its leaders and flock together.
With the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress sharpening their attacks on the AAP, the newest political force in Punjab is finding it difficult to keep pace with the political peak that it had attained earlier this year. (at the 50th Meter itself, the second and third runner-up are bracing for a show-down)
Among other things, the AAP has not been able to announce its first list of candidates, which it had promised to announce by the last week of May or the first week of June.
Today's news suggests that local AAP leadership short-listed 500 candidates out of which the top leadership chose 113 candidates for 23 seats. That means 90 candidates out of 113, found strong to contest polls will be denied the seat. Leave the other 387 candidates, who can among themselves, do enough damage. These ninety aspirants may totally ruin the chances of the contesting candidates by joining the fray as independents or joining the other parties. AAP is no novice in politics and they can not boast of a clean image as they could do in Delhi. There were dissensions, street fights, criminal acts by leaders and cadres. So, it is not alternate politics by AAP, but traditional politics with a new name. It is just old wine in new bottle.
In addition to the above issues, AAP faces a piquant situation in Punjab. Two MPs who won their LS seats, despite Modi wave, are now almost out of the party. That accounts for around 15 assembly segments. One MP Mann is accused of attening the LS in drunken state. This was alleged by their own MP who gave a written complaint to Speaker. This is one occasion in which Kejri could not tweet naming Modi for conspiracy. If the Speaker punishes him, it is going to be used by rival parties to their advantage.. That accounts for another 8 seats. There go 23 seats, where the party's fortunes may fluctuate. And noteworthy is the fact that these seats fall in Malwa Region where alone AAP did well to secure about 32% vote share . In Malwa Region where there were eight Parliamentary seats AAP scored 31.6%, SAD+ (despite heavy incumbency)31.4% and Congress 28.1% vote. This region accounts for 60+ seats. In Majha Region SAD+ scored 42.% votes (despite strong incumbency), Congress scored 44.0% and AAP a poor 9.6%. In Doasha Region Congress scored 29.1%, AAP 29.1% and SAD+ (despite the incumbency) 32.8%. In a nutshell, except in Malwa, AAP has to traverse a rough road in the other two regions which account for half of the seats. This road is too full of pot-holes in the Majha Region which accounts for 20+ seats.
In Malwa Region as stated supra, the sitting MPs (at least three) face strong incumbency factor. These account for 20+ seats. That leaves AAP very comfortable in only in 37+ seats. This is subject to assumption that there is no large scale revolt in the party after announcing candidates.
Out of the four seats AAP won in Malwa Region, two are SC reserved seats. One can just guess the reason why our very cunning Media started Dalit issues in BJP ruled states ignoring the same kind of issues in the so -called secular states. But there is a catch here. Mayawathi, who is itching to get back the support of the Dalits, is certain to go all out in Punjab with a view on the UP polls. BSP's vote share has been consistently declining in Punjab and in 2014 LS polls it scored 1.9% vote share. But, the die is cast. Maya already started wooing the Dalits again. It will be interesting to see what Maya has up her sleeve as far as Punjab is concerned. If she goes all-out, she will be pouring cold water on AAP ambitions, as she is certain to split the Dalit vote.
And Punjab boasts of the highest number of Dali voters. In 2014 polls, out of 1,37,86, 378 voters there were 40,45,887 Dalit voters (only SC) as per EC data. (29.34%)
Early campaign and declaration of candidates early may actually work against the AAP. Then comes the funds factor. Delhi polls were funded mostly by foreign based NGOs through various channels. Now that luxury is gone with each dollar remitted into India being scrutinized by Union Government with an eagle's eye. So, candidates will have to fund for themselves.
Entry of Siddhu will add to its woes as many in the party are vying for the coveted CM post and Siddhu will join the party only for the post. His decision is yet to come out. He did not quit BJP till date keeping doors open for a surprise from BJP. Who knows? This is politics.
Another noteworthy factor is the division of votes marred chances of Congress in 2014 more than SAD+. This is despite heavy incumbency. But that was LS polls. National issues play out. But that must be more the reason why AAP should not have done better in National poll as they were not serious contenders. It shows that voters care little about national or state election. So, till 2014 SAD+ was not on weak wicket. It was the Congress that gave way to AAP. More to worry for them.
Surprisingly, the AAP backed out of the Municipal polls in February 2015 quoting some silly reasons. May be they thought a drubbing in these polls will send a negative signal for Assembly polls. They quoted Delhi polls as reason. A party, whose leader wanted to be PM, develops cold feet for Municipal polls quoting they can not contest two polls at a time. Silly enough!
Suppose the Election Commission disqualifies 21 MLAs in Delhi this year and announces by-poll along with the Punjab assembly poll, the same piquant situation arises. Which poll AAP will not contest, Delhi by-poll or Punjab poll?
In a nut-shell, chances of AAP making the grade and winning the Punjab polls are very bright as of now, though not as bright as the pollsters predict. Congress has equal chance and BJP may spring a surprise after the Parliament Session. For the party that has not much to lose a gamble as in Maharashtra may not be a bigger loss. In fact, they may gain.
More on SAD, BJP and Congress in the next blog.
P.S. THE AUTHOR IS MORE THAN CONVINCED THAT SAD WILL BE ROUTED IN THE PUNJAB POLLS BUT WILL CONGRESS GIVE AAP A RUN FOR ITS MONEY AND WILL BJP SPRING A SURPRISE SOON? IN THE NEXT BLOGS