CHANDIGARH/PANAJI, Feb 3 - Archrivals BJP and Congress will battle it out in the electoral arena when polls are held in Punjab and Goa tomorrow, with Arvind Kejriwal�s AAP, debuting in assembly elections in the two states seeking to play a spoilsport for the two major contenders to power.
The BJP is in government in Punjab in alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for two successive terms, while it also helms Goa, despite ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party having drifted away just after the announcement of elections to form a three-party combine.
The elections to Punjab and Goa, which will be followed by those in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur, beginning later this month and spilling over to March, are being billed as a major test of BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi�s popularity post-demonetisation.
In Punjab, 1.98 crore electors are eligible to vote to choose from among 1,145 candidates to elect a 117-member assembly, while 11 lakh voters will decide the fate of 250 nominees for the 40 seats in the tiny coastal state of Goa.
In Punjab, where the SAD-BJP alliance has been in power for the past decade, tomorrow�s polling will decide the fate of a number of political bigwigs, including 89-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, seeking a sixth term in office, his old political rival and Congress� CM face Amarinder Singh, who has declared it will be his last election, and Badal�s son and deputy Sukhbir.
Stand up comedian and AAP MP from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann, who is a probable candidate for chief ministership if the party wins the election, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the voluble cricketer-turned-politician, who quit BJP to join Congress just ahead of the polls, are among the big names.
Voting will also take place tomorrow for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after state Congress chief Amarinder Singh resigned to protest against the Supreme Court order on Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.
In Goa, where the chief ministership has been as fickle as the loyalties of its political leaders, tomorrow�s voting will decide the fate among others of five former chief ministers, besides incumbent Laxmikant Parsekar. While Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro are in the fray as Congress nominees, Churchill Alemao is contesting on NCP ticket.
Interestingly, in Goa, where the BJP is facing a rival in a rebel RSS leader, the party has not projected Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar as the CM face and has often hinted at Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar�s return to the hot seat, apparently to cash in on his enduring popularity in the state. � PTI