Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has become the most popular Chief Ministerial face of the state. Thirty-one per cent of the respondents prefer him as the first choice for the Chief Minister’s post, as per the ABP-CVoter-IANS Five States Snap Poll.
The survey of 15,000 plus respondents also predicts a hung assembly with the following tally: AAP 51 seats, Congress 46 seats and Akali Dal 20 seats.
Punjab is currently split along demographic lines, vote bases of different parties have differing takes on the relevance of issues in 2022. The leadership tussle in Congress is queering the pitch for the party, it is still a competitive unit otherwise.
AAP is currently yearning for an official leader of Punjab unit. The legacy voters of AAP want someone named; similar sentiment may be there in floating voters from other parties. BJP’s prospects are so poor that even a Captain-BJP alliance in future may be of marginal help only.
A prospective Captain Amarinder Singh-BJP alliance does not seem to tickle the fancy of Punjabis. The highest support for it was among BJP voters, 50 per cent voters considered the alliance as beneficial to BJP while the other 50 per cent didn’t. Thirty-two per cent Congress voters considered such an alliance beneficial to BJP’s prospects. Thirty-eight per cent Akalis rated the same as beneficial to BJP, while only 22 per cent AAP voters considered it beneficial to BJP.
The reason for an adverse rating this alliance is the narrow electoral base of the BJP in Punjab. Under Advani-Badal formula of 1990s BJP limited itself to few urban pockets (less than 25 seats). Beyond that the BJP is severely unpopular in rural areas due to farmer agitation. Therefore, according to voters of all major parties in Punjab, BJP prospects are so bad that Captain’s alliance will only have a marginal impact.
It is high time that AAP declares its Chief Minister candidate for the state. Eighty-nine per cent of AAP voters support a decisive declaration of a candidate, while only 11 per cent don’t want the same. More than 3/4th of Congress and Akali Dal voters also back a declaration of Chief Minister candidate for AAP. The reason behind so is unclear but there may be some floating vote inherent to these numbers. A declaration of Chief Minister candidate may help such floating voters make a choice one way or the other.
Chief Minister Channi and PPCC President Sidhu are daggers drawn over various issues. The power struggle between the two is being uniformly assessed by voters of all parties as detrimental to Congress prospects. Sixty per cent Congress voters admitted to this tussle as a negative. A similar sentiment was observed in BJP (68 per cent), Akali Dal (65 per cent) and AAP (65 per cent). The subtext to this tussle is the wider struggle for leadership in Congress in post-Captain era. A divided cadre is unable to focus fully on political opponents.
Thirty-eight per cent voters of Punjab named farmer agitation as the most important issue for 2022 assembly election.
Equally, another 38 per cent named unemployment as the most important issue. Drugs as a social menace came a distant third at 13 per cent. The key to understanding the topline numbers is demographic landscape of Punjab. BJP voters consider unemployment (49%) as primary issue due their urban origins. Only 21 per cent of Punjab BJP voters considered farm agitation as key issue. There is a similar but finer split in Congress.
Currently, Dalits and OBCs form the bulwark of Punjab Congress followed by land owning forward castes from rural areas. Therefore, 42 per cent Congress voters consider unemployment as the key issue while 36 per cent rate farm protests as the key issue. The numbers are mirror opposite for AAP; 42 per cent voters cite farm protests as key while 36 per cent term unemployment as the main issue. For Akali Dal, 46 per cent voters considered farm protests to be the primary issue while 32 per cent rated unemployment as main concern.