New Delhi: The Shiromani Akal Dal(SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) alliance seemed to be heading for a majority in the Punjab Assembly belying history which has not seen the incumbent returning to power in the recent past.
The counting for the 117-seat Punjab Assembly began at 8 am on Tuesday and as per the trends at 10:00 am, the SAD-BJP alliance was ahead in 65 seats and the Congress was behind with 40 seats. Others were leading in just two seats as trends came in for 107 seats.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was leading on the Lambi seat against his younger brother Gurdas Badal of the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal.
The SAD+BJP alliance is poised to create history in a state where no ruling party has ever been voted back to power.
Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal was leading on the Jalalabad seat. PPP president Manpreet Singh Badal was trailing on both assembly seats, Gidderbaha and Maur, which he contested.
The SAD was leading in Raja Sansi, Sultanpur Lodhi, Faridkot, Nabha, Barnala, Attari, Ropar and Balachaur. Punjab Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon was trailing in Fatehgarh Churian. The BJP was leading in Phagwara, Anandpur Sahab and Dasuya while an Independent was leading from Amritsar East.
The Congress was leading in Ghanaur, Amritsar Central, Khadoor Sahab, Garh Shankar, Talwandi Sabo, Rajpura, Fatehgarh Churian, Samana and Patiala. Former chief minister and Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh was leading in Patiala and his son Raninder Singh from Samana.
Congress is contesting all 117 seats, while SAD 94 and BJP 23. In the last election SAD had won 50 seats, Congress 42, BJP 19 and independents 06.
The fate of 1,078 candidates, including 93 women and 417 independents, will be decided on Tuesday. Voting was held in the state January 30.
There are 52 counting centres across the state.
Nearly 78 per cent of the 17.6 million voters in the state exercised their franchise Jan 30. The voting percentage was an all-time record in assembly polls in the state.
The ruling SAD-BJP alliance has been battling allegations of corruption, farmers' issues and unemployment. A third front, Sanjha Morcha, which was formed recently and is led by former finance minister Manpreet Badal's People's Party of Punjab (PPP), added a new dimension to the state's politics.
Ahead of the counting, both the Congress and the SAD said they were confident of a victory. On one hand Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh said the 'non-governance and corruption of the ruling state government' have favoured them.
On the other hand, Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal believes they will retain power and Parkash Singh Badal will retain the post of the state's Chief Minister. It is also possibly the last electoral fight for Parkash Singh Badal, who is one of India's oldest politicians.
Parkash Singh Badal faces his toughest political test as he was pitted against his own younger brother, Gurdas Badal, 81, of PPP and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal of Congress in a bitter triangular contest for Lambi seat in southwest Punjab.