As the full impact of Aam Aadmi Party’s landslide victory in Delhi sunk in earlier this month, the foremost question it threw up was this: Is this the birth of a national party? Can AAP break the stranglehold of caste and identity politics elsewhere and bring voters together on the issues of corruption, clean governance and civil amenities, as it had done in Delhi?
Expansion to other states is an issue that AAP has struggled with. Its attempts to contest the national elections, ambitiously expanding after its 2013 victory in Delhi, bit the dust everywhere. Except in Punjab, where it won four Lok Sabha seats.
Could Punjab be the next battleground for the young party? What does the state’s voter think of the party after its stupendous show in Delhi? Polling agency CVoter asked 1,047 people in Punjab this question.
And the answers hold interesting insights for all parties interested in the state. In particular, it will be music to the ears of AAP leaders and supporters.
A vast majority—89%—said that Aam Aadmi Party's victory in Delhi elections would affect Punjab state elections in 2017.
Respondents also said that AAP has consolidated its base in their assembly area. While 45 percent said AAP has "a lot" of influence, 40 percent others said that AAP has ‘somewhat’ consolidated its base in their constituency.
Almost a third of people interviewed (61 percent) said that they thought AAP's decision of not contesting in the Punjab municipal elections was right. Around 30 percent thought AAP was right in not contesting in Punjab.
Most of the respondents (88 percent) believe that AAP would directly gain from fights within Congress, as well as the ongoing rift between the Bharatiya Janata Party and long-time partner Shiromani Akali Dal, according to the poll. They also believed that AAP leaders would be able to stand in good stead in Punjab even though main party faces like Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia will be occupied in Delhi.
The biggest issues faced by those interviewed in Punjab appeared to be corruption, alcoholism or drug abuse, and unemployment. Basic civic issues like availability of electricity, good roads, and clean water also featured high on this list.
A majority of the people interviewed did not think that Punjab elections would not be affected by the fact that Guru Ram-Rahim of Dera Sachcha Sauda had supported the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi elections. However, 39 percent disagreed. BJP suffered heavy losses in the capital, where it slid from winning a majority in the 2013 state elections to only three seats in the election earlier this month.
When asked which party they thought would win the 2017 Punjab elections, irrespective of who they supported or voted for, 56 percent of the respondents said AAP will win, despite the fact that AAP has not even announced its intention to contest Punjab. No other party is even close to this number—both the Congress and BJP are far behind with nine and eight percent faith following respectively.
Sudha Pai, a political studies professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said it was too early for predictions about the Punjab polls in 2017. Pai said that its footprint was no match for the hefty presence of the established parties.
“I don’t think it would have too much of an impact. The issues are all independent in different states,” she told HuffPost India. “But most importantly, AAP will first have to be build its credibility by performing in Delhi."