Rahul Gandhi accuses Kejriwal of destruction of peace
On Thursday, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi accused AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal of assisting in the destruction of Punjab's peace. Cautioning the voters, Gandhi said that the AAP leader will hijack Punjab's progressive agenda, along with Sikh radicals. He made the comments during a rally in Ballian village in Sangrur district, where he is trying to woo voters from the Malwa region.
The Election Commission (EC) rolled out a special campaign on September 7 to ensure all eligible voters are accounted. Punjab's population is at 2.95 crore; the coverage of age group of 18-19 years is only 95,022 against an estimate of 11,50,357 eligible voters. Assembly elections will be held in Punjab in the last week of January or the first week February next year.
The Punjab state assembly has 117 seats. Elections held in 2012 saw Shiromani Akali Dal (Akali Dal) win 58 seats, the Congress won 44 and the BJP won 12. Amongst the three parties, in 2012, Congress had the largest vote share of 39.92 %. In Punjab, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance has been in power for two terms and is battling anti-incumbency sentiment.
Traditionally, Punjab elections have been fought between two rivals: Akali Dal and Congress. AAP entered the fray and appeared to be gaining traction. This looked like a three-way-contest but now AAP's former Convenor Sucha Singh Chottepur also announced his intention to form a new party.
Congress is in power in only seven states. It has undergone a major-overhaul given the high stakes for the upcoming state elections. In 2012, Congress faced a massive internal rebellion and was spurned by voters for its 'inaccessible' image. This time, Congress has aggressively connected with the grassroot to woo voters. Amarinder Singh is expected to be Congress's CM candidate in Punjab.
Akali Dal and BJP (AD-BJP) have decided to contest the 2017 assembly elections together. Battling palpable anti-incumbency sentiment, Akali Dal has aggressively revamped its social-media strategy to take on Congress and AAP. The AD-BJP alliance was pointedly targeted by AAP on Punjab's drug menace and development issues. Akali Dal has now hired media experts to tackle the "perception problem" that arose due to AAP.
Initially considered a serious challenger to Akali Dal and Congress, a survey suggested AAP would comfortably win a majority. However, the arrests of AAP ministers in Delhi has impacted its reputation in Punjab as well. AAP's impulsive inclusion of Navjyot Singh Sidhu and abrupt expulsion of Sucha Singh, has dented its credibility. Two weeks ago, Kejriwal was berated by protesters at Ludhiana railway station.
AAP Punjab's former convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur announced the formation of his new political party called the Apna Punjab Party. He stated that his party would contest the upcoming Punjab elections. He also called upon other political outfits in Punjab including Sidhu's Awaz-e-Punjab to fight AAP. He added that if Sidhu doesn't respond, he would form an alliance with like-minded parties.
Navjot Singh Sidhu joined Congress today, after his meeting with Rahul Gandhi a short while ago. In another news, daughter of former Punjab CM Beant Singh, Gurkanwal Kaur joined the BJP saying she felt "suffocated on being neglected by the Congress." She added that she "was impressed and inspired with the policies of PM," and was "unconditionally joining the BJP as a ground-level worker."
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi declared Capt. Amarinder Singh as Congress's chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Punjab assembly elections. Pointing to Capt. Amarinder Singh, Gandhi said, "The chief minister of Punjab will be from the state itself. And he is sitting right here." The state of Punjab will go to polls on 5th February, 2017.
Poll watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has stated that as many as 101 assembly-elections candidates in Punjab are facing criminal charges. Jagdeep Chokkar, founding member of ADR said that 78 candidates face serious murder charges like murder, attempt to murder and crimes against women. Of these, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Capt. Amarinder Singh and Simarjeet Singh Bains are prominent candidates facing criminal charges.