As internal calculations intensify, Cong hopes pinned on Channi factor working

After discussing its exit polls, ruling Congress in Punjab is now hinging its hope for success on SC votes to reach the magic number of 59 in the Assembly of 117 members.

Having named Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as its Chief Ministerial candidate so as to attract SC voters in a state, which has the highest SC population of 32.5% in India, the Congress is feeling it can only wrest victory if the SC votes were polled by Congress candidates.

“It is difficult to make out at this juncture if the SC votes went to Congress candidates. If the SC support has translated to votes for us, then we are the happiest party after results. Even if we were able to manage 55 to 60% of Dalit population to vote for us, only then we will be able to scrape through. Otherwise, it looks difficult. We may have to be satisfied with 35 plus seats,” a party leader said.

He added, “The narrative this time was about “badlaav”. I cannot call it a wave of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). People wanted change from traditional parties and their politics. That is why they were fancying AAP as an alternative. But we gave our Congress leaders this talking point that they should project Channi as the face of change that people have been waiting. They have been saying that after seven decades of Independence, this was the first time that a common man was being made the Chief Minister. This was the real badlaav. We do not know whether this narrative resonated or not. Only the results will tell.”

After having discussed sympathy wave following death of actor and accused in Red Fort violence, Deep Sidhu, the Congress has been calculating that if it gets SC votes in 34 SC reserved seats, it would give the party directly an edge over the others. However, the Shiromani Akali Dal had also tied up with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) this time and the SAD also expects that their ally would help them in translation of SC votes. The AAP had also been eying SC votes.

“If SC Sikhs, accounting for 19.4% votes have consolidated for us, it would be the clinching factor. There are considerable 12.4 per cent of Hindu SC votes also, which may also come the Congress way,” a leader engaged in calculations said.

After having named Channi as the CM candidate, the party had also fielded him from Bhadaur (SC reserved seat), besides his Chamkaur Sahib constituency. This was aimed at galvanising the voters in districts of Malwa, considered ripe for AAP.

Chamkaur Sahib seat is also considered to have influence on the Doaba region, having 23 seats. The region has the highest SC population, at around 37 per cent. Congress had won 15 of these seats in the 2017 elections.

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