Chandigarh Civic Poll: Great Debut for AAP, Can This Impact Punjab Results?
There are significant differences between the electorate in Punjab and Chandigarh. But AAP's win is still important.
The Aam Aadmi Party has notched up an impressive performance in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections, winning 14 out of 35 wards in the city, falling a little short of a majority.
The BJP won 12 wards, Congress 8, and Shiromani Akali Dal 1.
In 2016, the BJP had swept the elections winning 20 out of 26 wards then. It's tally has fallen significantly since then — from around 80 percent of the total seats to just about one third.
The Congress has also gained marginally — up from 4 wards in 2016 to 8 now.
However, in terms of vote share, the Congress secured 29.9 percent votes, the BJP was at 29.3 percent and AAP at 27.1 percent. It appears that Congress' votes may have been consolidated fewer number of wards.
This article will look at two aspects:
The extent of AAP's success in Chandigarh
What do these results mean in the context of the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab?
AAP'S IMPORTANT WIN
AAP's tally is in itself significant as this is its debut election in Chandigarh.
If one looks at the ward-wise results, AAP candidates managed to upset several top-ranking BJP nominees.
For instance, the sitting mayor of the BJP, Ravi Kant Sharma, was defeated by AAP's Damanpreet Singh. Former mayor Davesh Moudgil lost to AAP's Jasbir Singh.
Former senior deputy mayor Heera Negi of the BJP lost to Anju Katyal of AAP. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and former Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat had come down to Chandigarh to campaign for Negi.
BJP MP Kirron Kher's appeal seeking votes by invoking the 1984 pogrom seems to have yielded nothing.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN THE CONTEXT OF PUNJAB ELECTIONS?
AAP's national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called AAP's performance "a sign of imminent change in Punjab".
But does a win in Chandigarh point towards what may happen in Punjab?
Past results are not very conclusive in this regard.
In 2016, the BJP had swept Chandigarh but faced a drubbing in Punjab a few months later. Even the results in urban Punjab were completely opposite of the Chandigarh results.
There are four Assembly seats in the vicinity of Chandigarh — Dera Bassi, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Kharar, and Rajpura. In 2017, Congress had won two of these seats — SAS Nagar and Rajpura, SAD had won Dera Bassi and AAP had won Kharar. Therefore even in neighbouring seats, there wasn't much correlation with the 2016 results in Chandigarh.
But in 2011, the Congress was narrowly ahead of the BJP in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections. Though the Congress lost the Assembly polls a few months later, it did reasonably well in urban Punjab and the results in cities were broadly in the same direction as Chandigarh.
Congress also did well in the seats adjoining Chandigarh, winning Kharar, SAS Nagar and Rajpura, losing Dera Bassi to the SAD.
One factor that we must keep in mind while trying to link trends in Chandigarh and Punjab is demography.
According to the 2011 census, Hindus account for 80 percent of Chandigarh's population and Sikhs 13 percent.
In Punjab, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Bathinda are Hindu majority cities with the community accounting for 66 percent, 75 percent, and 62 percent of the cities' population respectively. In Amritsar, both Sikhs and Hindus are in the 48-49 percent range.
However, the bigger difference is linguistic. According to the 2011 census, 66 percent in Chandigarh listed Hindi as their language and 21 percent listed Punjabi. In Punjab, 90 percent have listed their language as Punjabi with 8 percent saying Hindi.
But the Chandigarh result is still significant because AAP has won a Hindu majority city. In Punjab, it is considered relatively weaker among urban Hindu voters. The Chandigarh result indicates that this demographic does now consider AAP a possible option. This could have an impact in Punjab's cities to some extent.
The Chandigarh result may help AAP counter the perception that it is essentially a party of rural Malwa.
The other big takeaway from the Chandigarh result is a decline in the BJP's vote share. If this decline is taking place among Hindi-speaking urban voters in Chandigarh, the decline could be more among Punjabi-speaking urban voters in Punjab.
Which party is able to capture the declining BJP base may have an advantage at least in urban Punjab.
Meanwhile, the AAP has every reason to celebrate its performance in Chandigarh, which will no doubt boost its morale ahead of the electoral battle in Punjab.
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