The Congress received runaway majority in Punjab on Saturday, sweeping aside the incumbent SAD-BJP combine as well as newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and is all set to form government in the state. When the air cleared at the end of the day, the Congress had 77 seats, the AAP and its coalition partners had 22 seats and the SAD-BJP combine had 18 seats.
The result was not entirely unexpected, but what was unexpected that the AAP — which had been tipped by some exit polls to be the winner in the state — getting just a few seats more than the SAD-BJP coalition, which exit polls had said would either get seats in the single digits or be entirely wiped out.
What the exit polls had said
The exit polls had generally predicted a Congress victory, but on average there were doubts over whether the party would be able to reach the halfway mark of 59 in the 117-member Assembly. Speculation at that time had been that the party would have to tie up with the AAP in order to form government, much like how the AAP had taken the support of the Congress when it had first formed government in Delhi.
Some exit polls had also said that the AAP would win the most number of seats, and even get majority! In that case, the Arvnd Kejriwal-led party would have had to seek the support of someone else — possibly the Congress — to form government.
The AAP was confident. However, it seems the party had overestimated its voter base. In the end, the Congress may have received the most number of votes, but the SAD alone was second in that respect, with the AAP third. Clearly, the SAD-BJP combine lost many seats, but in most cases by a thin margin.
Additionally, he SAD-BJP coalition had been in for an overhaul after having spent 10 years in power: The anti-incumbency factor was bound to kick in sometime, and votes would be weaned away from the combine. The AAP would have wanted those votes, but the several brushes it had with the Khalistan movement and people connected to it weaned people away from them.
True, that the residents of Punjab wanted change, but they also wanted a stable government. That is why then they decided to vote against the SAD and the BJP, and were given the options of the Congress and the AAP, they chose the Congress.