Though the Congress lost the battle in 2007 to the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, it hopes to regain power in Punjab this year. The party, which is banking on the anti-incumbency factor, believes it "will throw Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Bhartiya Janata Party out of power".
"You must have heard all sorts of lies from Sardar Badal and his colleagues. Wahe Guru to daro, kadi te saach bol daya karo (I ask my Akali friends to have the fear of God and speak the truth)," Captain Amarinder Singh said at a rally.
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Countering the Amarinder Singh's argument, Akali leaders said that he was a person who wants to enjoy grapes without toiling. "The Captain is shedding crocodiles tears and offers to work for the common man. If you vote him to power you will regret because he will spend more time in London than in Punjab," a veteran Punjab leader said.
A few factors can change the outcome of the results of the assembly elections in Punjab. First and foremost, the rebel candidates could dent Congress's advantage over SAD-BJP. The Congress expelled 16 rebels to send a stern message to rebels.
Second, the Akalis have do contend with Manpreet Singh Brar, who parted ways with the Shiromani Akali Dal a few years back. He has fielded a sizeable number of candidates against the Akali-BJP nominees. "We are trying to win him over," Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a senior Akali leader, told rediff.com.
After the recent delimitation, Mohali, with nearly 1.64 lakh votes, was carved out as a separate constituency by excluding a large area of Kharar seat, which was re-modelled by merging considerable areas of Morinda. It has an even spread that includes a major urban area of Mohali city and 78 villages.
Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu, who represented Kharar in the assembly, faces challenge from former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who merged his Lok Bhalai Party with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. Former deputy speaker of the Punjab Bir Devinder Singh, who represented Kharar in 2002-07, has been fielded by People's Party of Punjab, which was floated by former finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Moreover, the vigil and honesty with which the polling officers are carrying out their duties deserves a mention. The Election Commission has seized over Rs 30 crore meant for purchasing the votes with the help of flying squads. This is the first time that money of such a huge amount has been seized by the state election officers and deposited in the treasury.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul have been campaigning in the state on a war footing.
The BJP suffered a major set back when Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, fell ill forcing the party to cancel all her engagements. "She was our star campaigner. But other leaders are making up for her absence," Shahnawaz Khan told rediff.com, adding that he was confident that the Akali-BJP alliance will be voted back to power.