CHANDIGARH/GOA The high-octane campaign for the assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, billed as the first major test of the Modi government’s popularity post-demonetisation, ended on Thursday.
The gruelling campaign concluded for all the 117 seats of Punjab and 40 of the tiny coastal state of Goa on Thursday evening ahead of the February 4 single-phase polling in the two states where BJP is in power.
It was for the first time in the recent memory that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well, did not go stumping and the task of spearheading the electioneering was left to her heir apparent and deputy Rahul Gandhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah a battery of Union ministers including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar plunged into electioneering for BJP and its allies in the two states.
Punjab, where the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine has been in power over the last decade, saw bitter exchanges between it and two other major contenders for power – Congress and AAP over drug menace, corruption and law and order.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is contesting assembly elections in both the states, where BJP and Congress have been traditional political rivals, for the first time and is said to be a potential contender for power.
Apart from the drug menace, the contentious SYL canal issue and sacrilege of holy books of Sikhs were among the major issues flagged by the electoral rivals.
Prime Minister Modi held two elections rallies in Jalandhar and Kotkapura in the state where he flagged the issue of threat from Pakistan to seek votes for SAD-BJP combine, which he claim alone could provide a stable government that would guarantee safety and security of the state.
Rahul Gandhi took Congress’ campaign to the pocket boroughs of the ruling Badal clan, including Lambi, Majitha and Jalalabad, to target it over alleged corruption, playing dynastic politics and promoting drugs and mining mafia.