From Our Special Correspondent

Chandigarh — the September poll may witness a close race between the Congress (I) and Akali Dal, the main contenders for power in the border State. Notwithstanding their claims and counter claims for absolute majority, situation remains fluid making it difficult to predict the outcome. No wave is sweeping the state. One major factor which will considerably determine the fate of two parties is voter turnout. If the voting percentage is low in urban areas it will adversely affect the Congress (1) prospects. The Akali Dal stands to lose if the turnout is low in rural areas. Any incident of violence will affect the percentage of polling in the state. Despite the uncertainties important pointers have emerged. The situation seems more favorable for the Akali Dal to improve its strength over its 1980 tally of 37. Whether it would manage absolute majority is a million dollar question. On the other hand Congress (I) is not in the same advantageous position as it was in 1980. It had then secured 63 seats, a majority of 4 only in 117 member assembly. As a result of countermanding of elections in the two Jullundur constituencies polling is being held only in 115 constituencies this time. Although it is claimed that Rajiv Gandhi Longowal accord of July 24th has improved the overall atmosphere in the state yet the voting is likely to take place by and large on communal lines. Complete communal polarization seems to have taken place in the major urban centers where the Hindus are in majority and are expected to vote for Congress (D. The polarization is not to the same extent in small towns where a section of Hindus may vote for Akali Candidates either for winning the party favor who they think will form the ministry or under the influence of Bhartiya Janata party which is opposing Congress (1). There are about 30 Hindu majority seats in Punjab which overwhelmingly have returned Congress (I) candidates earlier. Besides the solid support of Harijans, Congress (I) has a vote among a section of Sikhs which helps her to secure absolute majority in the Assembly. As a result of the past events Akalis have expanded their base among Sikhs, who may vote in larger numbers this time than 1980. Consequently the prospects of Congress (1) in Sikh dominated constituencies particularly from where it used to win are going to be affected. Two other factors operate against the Congress (I) this time. Earlier the party used to be clear about the goal in its election. This time there is an impression that center wants to install Akali ministry or wants to share power with the Akalis in Punjab. Secondly Congress (I) had untidily fought 1980 election after having been in wilderness for three years. This time however there is a sharp division in the party. The rebels, who have been denied the tickets, are not whole hearty working for the party candidates. The situation however is not easy for the Akali Dal either. It has its own party leaders as rebels fighting against party candidates beside the boycott call given by United Akali Dal of Baba Joginder Singh father of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale may also have some effect though not on a very large scale in some areas particularly Gurdaspur Amritsar  Ferozepur, Faridkot and Hoshiarpur. Akali Dal is not having any alliance with any political party except Janata. It has 101 candidates. The two left parties are fighting jointly by putting up 70 candidates. Akali Dal may increase its tally at the cost of two left parties. Leftists should consider themselves lucky if they jointly win 4 seats though their polling percentage this time will be higher.


The prospects of Bhartiya Janata party are linked with the intensity of communal polarization. If the urban Hundus vote for the Congress (I) with a view to keep the Akalis out of Power B.J.P. may not be able to register any gain. Its success may only come from the constituencies where there is local opposition to the Congress (I) candidates. The party had contested 41 seats in 1980 and had secured only one seat. Now it has put up its candidates for 28 seats. The Janata party did not have any representation in the last .assembly. The Akali Dal is likely to improve its strength in Lok Sahba. In 1980 Party was able to get one seat out of seven it had contested. While the remaining 12 seats were won by the Congress (I). One may not be surprised if Akali Dal wins 45 seats this time.

Article extracted from this publication >>  September 27, 1985