Stakes high for SAD-BJP combine, Congress as Punjab goes to polls
Chandigarh: The single-phase polling for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab would be held on Wednesday where the spotlight is firmly on the encounter in Amritsar between Congress' Amarinder Singh and BJP's Arun Jaitley.
The polling on Wednesday will see 1.95 crore voters sealing the fate of 253 contestants, including 19 women.
Unlike many other states, Congress cadre in Punjab is optimistic about the party prospects after the top leadership rolled up its sleeves and is fighting the battle from the front even as ruling SAD-BJP is banking on development works in the state and the Modi factor.
The spotlight is firmly on the encounter in Amritsar where it is a clash of titans as Amarinder Singh and Arun Jaitley are locked in a fierce battle.
Bathinda also grabbed eyeballs as Congress candidate Manpreet Singh Badal is facing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's daughter-in-law and sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Since 2012 when Manpreet deserted SAD to float Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP), the outfit's performance in assembly and panchayat bodies polls has been dismal as it failed to open its account and Manpreet, four times MLA too lost from Maur and Gidderbaha assembly seats.
Jaitley is fighting his maiden Lok Sabha polls and a victory is likely to propel him to a position of power if the NDA forms the government, while Amarinder's win will revive his political fortunes and he will again emerge as the key Congress leader in the state.
The pitch for Jaitley to contest from Amritsar was raised by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the cost of three times BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was left out as he did not enjoy good equations with Badals duirng his stint as MP from the holy city.
Besides, Punjab Congress head Partap Singh Bajwa is locking horns with actor-turned-politician and BJP's Vinod Khanna, former union minister Ambika Soni is fighting her maiden Lok Sabha battle from Anandpur Sahib and Sunil Kumar Jakhar, son of Balram Jakhar and leader of opposition in the assembly is Congress man in Ferozepur.
Congress has to prove a point this time as the party had lost two back to back assembly polls in 2007 and 2012 in the state.
For the first time in the state, there is a credible third contender in the fray in the form of AAP. Observers feel that AAP has made inroads into the state's political arena and is likely to eat into the vote bank of SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress.
AAP is feeding on anti-incumbency votes of both SAD-BJP alliance and Congress are facing in the state. SAD-BJP combine is ruling the state for the last seven years, while Congress led UPA is at power at Centre for the past ten years.
BJP, which is contesting Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur as per seat sharing agreement with its ally SAD, is facing voters' wrath over the imposition of taxes, even as it is riding high on the "Modi wave."
Candidates from other parties like BSP, CPI, CPM, SAD (Amritsar) and Samajwadi Party have also jumped in the fray.