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Rahul Gandhi with Captain Amarinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu and other party leaders during a party rally in Majitha, Punjab in 2017.IANS

Punjab has been a different kind of tricky for political parties; the state that has been saddled with issues both nuanced and urgent almost ever since it was partitioned after Independence. For the past decade and a half, the only thing predictable about the agrarian state has been its penchant to vote out the incumbent government.

Last week, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann reiterated Aam Aadmi Party's stance on the upcoming Punjab Lok Sabha elections. Dismissing the possibility of any alliance with Congress party in the state, he claimed that AAP will win all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab 2024 general elections.

"We are not going with them," he said while responding to a question about electoral alliance with Congress in the state. He added, "I have said it before on several occasions that Punjab will become a hero in the country and AAP will win 13-0 in the 2024 Lok Sabha election." However hopeful or brazen that may sound, everyone in the fray knows neither are Punjab voters all that easy to please nor is the political outcome that clear.

If past data is anything to go by

If the Assembly elections of the past 15 years are anything to go by, then Punjab has pretty much given a chance to political outfits of every color and ideology. The regional party Shiromani Akali Dal, Punjab's local version of saffron, was voted in 2012 but then voted out in favor of the Congress in 2017. In 2022, the state gave a resounding victory to AAP, clearly signifying it was ready to give change and new parties a chance.

The stakes are high, rules unknown

Does the BJP stand any chance in the state? At the moment, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and Congress have their daggers drawn at each other, then there's Shiromani Akali Dal, the oldest regional party that will be fighting its first battle without its founding head, the formidable late Parkash Singh Badal.

Little wonder, that BJP has found it challenging to find any real footing in the state whose voters take a departure from national trends. Notably, this will be AAP's first time testing waters with Lok Sabha polls since it swept the state with 92 out of 117 seats in the assembly poll.

Poll analysts know too well that the religion card hardly works considering the state's only communal outfit Shiromani Akali Dal first came to power on the promise of free water and electricity to farmers and has been almost decimated to the point of fighting an existential crisis.

So then what pleases Punjab voters? Change and hope are the only constants in the border state consisting of 13 Lok Sabha constituencies. In 2014, AAP opened its account in Lok Sabha by securing 4 seats from Punjab, along with SAD which also bagged 4 seats. While Congress had to make do with 3, BJP secured only 2. Fast forward to five years later, in the 2019 general elections, INC won an encouraging number of 8 seats, while BJP and SAD had to settle for 2 each and AAP with only 1.

In 2022, within a few months of AAP's landslide win in the state assembly poll, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's Sangrur Lok Sabha seat went to Simranjit Singh Mann, a hardliner and former president of SAD. In Punjab, political parties don't win, the ruling parties are just voted out of power.

Strong allegations of rigging in Chandigarh mayor elections

On Tuesday, the netizens found it hard not to see the Chandigarh mayor elections against the backdrop of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Short of a simple majority in Chandigarh's 35-member MC elections, the BJP won by a meager 4 votes, after as many as 8 votes were declared invalid. Soon after the results were announced, a video showing the presiding officer Anil Masih scribbling something on the invalid votes went viral on social media.

Combined opposition comprising both Congress and AAP had jointly fought the elections. The 8 invalid votes paved the way for BJP's mayoral candidate Manoj Sonlar to take over. AAP has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking fresh elections while the presiding officer has denied all allegations of rigging made on the basis of the viral video.