Punjab, which witnessed a triangular contest in the Assembly polls, could be in for a neck and neck fight between the Congress and the AAP while the ruling SAD-BJP may face a drubbing, according to exit polls.
Exit polls released ahead of the March-11 counting predict the SAD-BJP combine, which has been ruling the state for 10 years, could be struggling to get even into double-digits in the 117-member House due to multiple factors including the anti-incumbency.
While India Today-Axis exit polls gave 62-71 seats to the Congress and 42-51 to AAP, India TV-C Voter projected 41-49 for the Congress and 59-67 seats for the AAP. India News-MRC and News 24-Chanakya forecast a dead heat giving 55 to the Congress and 54 to the AAP.
The ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance was reduced to single digit tally in all exit polls. Away from the hustle and bustle of the exit polls, the SAD-BJP alliance is confident of defying the pollsters "like in 2012", when it proved the surveys wrong. 89-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal claimed the combine would would win 72 seats. As for Congress, Amarinder Singh claimed it would win 65 seats and the AAP exuded confidence of bagging close to 100.
The state went to polls in single phase on February 4 and recorded 78.60 % polling against 78.57 % in the 2012 polls. 1,145 candidates are in the fray, 81 of whom are female and one transgender. "The counting of votes will take place on Saturday (March 11) for which all necessary preparations have been made," an election office spokesman said here today. It was a record for the state when the SAD (with BJP) came back to power in 2012 as no party had ever been given two consecutive terms.
Since reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, the Congress and the SAD have been ruling the state alternately. The SAD-BJP alliance formed the government for the first time in 2007 and retained majority in 2012. This time around, while the SAD is contesting 94 seats the BJP is 23. The Congress has contested all the seats. The AAP and its ally Lok Insaf Party, led by the Bains brothers of Ludhiana, are fighting 112 and 5 seats respectively.