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Tough battle ahead in Punjab

Just a few months back, it looked as if there would be no stopping of the Congress victory march in Punjab when Assembly elections are held there early next year. The main opposition parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party were in disarray, evident from their lacklustre performance in the local bodies and Panchayat elections. The rural masses were alienated from the Akali Dal because of their alliance with the BJP. Ultimately, to protect their base, the Akalis had no option but to walk out of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance, NDA.

The Aam Aadmi Party was in no better shape. After losing to the Congress in 2017 because of its alleged association with extremist elements, its top local leaders had left the party one after another. It was becoming clear that the party had no effective leadership in the state. The Akali Dal, pushed to third place in the 2017 Assembly elections, had done little to revive its fortunes except for the last hour decision to part company with the BJP on the farm bills issue.

But two major developments have taken place in the meantime. The most crucial, of course, is the infighting in the Congress resulting in Captain Amarinder Singh’s ouster as Chief Minister and his replacement by a person deemed to be close to his bitter rival Navjot Singh Sidhu. The other development is the decision of the Akali Dal to forge an alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, BSP. Though the party drew a blank in the last Assembly elections, it has support in the rural areas, especially in the Doaba region of the state. If the alliance gets running on the ground, it would pose a big challenge to the Congress. An interesting battle lies ahead. The Congress will have to fight hard to retain power in the state. If the infighting in the party continues, the Congress may find it difficult to return to power.

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