Buoyant over the predictions of the exit polls, Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial candidate, Bhagwant Maan said on Wednesday that several political stalwarts are going to bite the dust as the result of the keenly fought 2022 Assembly polls are due to be declared today, March 10. Maan ruled out the possibilities of a hung assembly and a post-poll alliance with any party.
Punjab witnessed a multi-cornered contest this time with Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance, AAP and the coalition of Bharatiya Janata Party-former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress party as main contestants. The voting was held in a single phase on February 20.
Commenting on exit-polls that have predicted a landslide victory for the AAP, Congress leader and the incumbent chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who is in the national capital to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah, told reporters, “All of you, please wait till March 10. Only boxes (EVMs) will tell the reality.”
A sitting MLA from Chamkur Sahib in Punjab Ropar district, Channi contested from his home turf and Bhadaur, a rural seat in Barnala district. In both constituencies, illegal sand mining is a major issue. Earlier in January, the Enforcement Directorate had arrested Channi’s nephew over his alleged involvement.
Another interesting highlight of this election is SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal, 94, who is contesting his last election from Lambi assembly constituency in Muktsar district. He is said to have lost only one election in his political career that spans 75 years.
Bhagwant Maan, AAP’s chief ministerial candidate and sitting MP contested from Dhuri constituency which has been a Congress stronghold since 2012. In the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections, Maan had got overwhelming support from the Dhuri segment.
Amritsar (East) seems to be the most interesting constituency because of the contest between friends turned foes, Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia.
The former chief minister of Punjab Capt. Amarinder Singh seems to be struggling for his political survival at his home turf – Patiala Urban – that he has been representing since 2002. After his unceremonious exit from Congress, he floated his own party, Punjab Lok Congress, and later forged an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. A possible defeat may mark the end of his 50 year-long political careers. He fought against AAP’s Ajit Pal Kolhi and Congress’s Vishnu Sharma in this election.
Stakes are also high for the SAD’s chief ministerial candidate, Sukhbir Singh Badal, given the rumblings against his leadership within the party. He is contesting from the Jalalabad assembly constituency in the Fazilka district. He had won the seat in 2017 by over 18,000 votes.
After the success of the farmers’ agitation last year, Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM), a conglomerate of several farmers’ unions, is also in the fray. It leader and chief ministerial candidate, Balbir Singh Rajewal, is getting tough competition from AAP’s Jagtar Singh Diyalpura, SAD’s Paramjit Singh Dhillon and Congress’s Rupinder Singh Raja Gill on Samrala assembly constituency in Ludhiana district. Amrik Singh Dhillion, the incumbent MLA who is fighting independently after being denied a ticket by Congress, has also made the fight multi-cornered.
Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala is a maiden candidate, contesting election from Mansa on Congress ticket. In the past, the controversial singer has been booked for promoting violence through his songs. He is locked in a tough fight with the AAP’s Vijay Singla and SAD’s Prem Kumar Arora.
The counting of votes for 117 Assembly constituencies will start at 8 a.m. at 117 centres at 66 locations across Punjab, according to Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer, S. Karuna Raju. "As many as 45 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces —that have a strength of as many as 7,500 personnel — have been deployed to ensure three-tier security measures," Raju told the media, adding that all the District Election Officers-cum-Deputy Commissioners have imposed Section 144 of the CrPC to discourage crowd outside the counting centres.