As the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday announced the date for Punjab assembly polls, it will be a race against time for political parties in the state as the voters are yet to be offered a clear-cut Chief Ministerial face. The elections in Punjab will be held on February 14 and the counting will take place on March 10.
Even as mystery continues to shroud who would be its CM face, the ruling Congress is still to declare its first list of candidates fighting the polls. The grand old party has already held two meetings of the screening committee and has declared that the party leaders have arrived at a consensus for at least 50 seats apart from its dilemma of declaring a Chief Ministerial face. The biggest dilemma of the Congress would be whether to go ahead with incumbent CM Charanjit Singh Channi or to name Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu for the CM post.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has declared candidates for 104 seats but it is still to declare a CM face. Similarly, the SAD–BSP alliance too has declared 88 seats for the forthcoming polls.
On the other hand, the newly forged alliance between former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress, BJP, and the SAD (D) led by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa are still to declare the seat-sharing arrangement for the state assembly polls.
These elections in Punjab will be one of the firsts where it is expected to be a multi-cornered election. Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM), a political unit of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) which helmed the year-long protest against the three contentious farm bills, has jumped in the Punjab polls to give a tough fight. Though farmer leader Balbir Rajewal is touted as its leader but there is no official word yet from farmers on who their choice would be for the Chief Ministerial post in the state.
With no party declaring a CM face, the campaigning would become more interesting. The AAP, though, has made it clear that this time it would ensure that they go into the elections with a CM face, but so far a formal announcement has remained elusive. Soon after the dates were announced by the EC, party leader Jarnail Singh said that the party would ensure that it would go into the elections with a CM face and not commit the same mistake as it had committed in 2017 of going faceless. The SAD has gone into an alliance with the BSP but continues to battle an “image perception”.