In one of the biggest surprises yet of the ongoing Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur, the Shiromani Akali Dal-led (SAD) by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal have cantered into a lead over the much-fancied Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal. While the effect may not be as massive as it pulled off in assembly polls the last time 5 years ago when it won despite all pandits saying they would not, SAD-BJP are in number 2 position behind the Capt Amarinder Singh led Congress. According to the count at the moment, Congress has established a lead in 63 seats, while SAD-BJP is 31 and AAP is at 22. This is an incredible count for SAD-BJP half way through the counting effort by the Election Commission. However, as the break-up is not available, it is not clear whether the leads are for the BJP contenders or the SAD men in the poll. If it is BJP men then, this is another affirmation of PM Narendra Modi’s growing clout across India and it is now filtering into Punjab too – in Uttar Pradesh, Mosi’s BJP is set to grab 2/3rd majority and wipe out Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance.
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The SAD-BJP performance is totally against what most pundits and the public had been predicting. Most of the people who had spoken out on the issue had mentioned 2 parties as winning – Congress and AAP. But now it emerges that SAD-BJP is the one that has been collecting the votes quietly despite it being targetted for its alleged role in corruption in Punjab as well as the spread of drugs in the state to the extent that a huge number of young men and women there are being tagged as junkies in the state. And more than that, SAD-BJP government has not been able to deliver on the economic front too. Its policies have virtually wrecked the economy and there is unemployment in the state that is not abating and infrastructure is collapsing even as agriculture is failing for want of power and water. The SAD-BJP government does not have any cogent plan to revive the economy either despite its links with the BJP which has gone to town tom-tomming its development vision for the country.
Whatever the final result, it is clear that the SAD-BJP has humiliated Arvind Kejriwal and his party with its performance, at the moment, at the hustings.