Punjab has turned out to be the silver lining the Congress was hoping for on a day the Bharatiya Janata Party is sweeping the big state of Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP has also taken the lead in Uttarakhand and is in a tight race with the Congress in Goa and Manipur.
Trends on the Election Commission of India website at 11.30 am gives Congress a massive advantage in Punjab with leads in 69 of the 117 seats. This is well past the halfway mark of 59 in the Punjab Assembly.
But the big story is the poor performance of the Aam Aadmi Party. Three exit polls on Thursday predicted a neck-and-neck race between the Congress and the AAP. The vote share spread in the exit polls indicated a massive loss for the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. This reduction in vote share, the perceived effect of a strong anti-incumbency, was largely expected to benefit the AAP, which made the corruption of the Badals its main campaign plank.
However, the trends on Saturday indicate that the anti-incumbency factor was not as strong as it was expected to be.
As per counting trends at 11.30 am on Saturday, both the Congress and the SAD-BJP have lost on vote share compared to 2012. While the ruling alliance polled 41.7% in 2012, it has come down to 31%. The Congress is down from 40% in 2012 to 38.2%.
But despite the loss, the the Akali-BJP performance was much better than predictions, pouring cold water on AAP’s chances of scoring an upset.
The AAP, which is contesting its first Assembly poll in Punjab, has polled 6% less than SAD-BJP alliance as at 11 am though it is leading in 22 seats compared to 15 for the Akalis. This is largely due to the fact that the AAP’s leads are concentrated in the Malwa region of south Punjab whereas the SAD-BJP votes are spread across the state. This could also be the reason why the AAP has not been able to take advantage of the discontent against the ruling party like the Congress has done, given its organisational weakness outside the Malwa region.
Both Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal are leading in their respective constituencies of Lambi and Jalalabad.
In Jalalabad, AAP’s poster boy Bhagwant Mann has been pushed to third spot. In Patiala, Congress chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh is leading by over 34,000 votes.
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