As you drive through the lush green countryside of Punjab
On broad, well-tarred roads through villages, some of which have houses that would put Delhi's Defence Colony to shame, electrified and seemingly with no lack of water, you ask yourself, why would anyone oust the government in power.It all looks so good that if you were a betting man and just saw these pictures, you would place your money on a third term for the Akalis.
And you would lose, big time, for the calm is deceptive; beneath it seethes churn. A churn that could perhaps send the Akalis into political oblivion and may even completely overthrow the current two-party political order. If the villages of Malwa, the southern part of Punjab, with its 63 seats (the state has a total of 117) were the only places voting, the Aam Aadmi Party's clarion call "Kejriwal, Kejriwal, saara Punjab tere naal (Kejriwal, all of Punjab is with you)", would be resounding. In an area where they surprised everyone in 2014 by winning four parliamentary seats, including Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh's pocket borough of Patiala, the leher (wave) seems to have spread.
AAP is seen as the party of change. And change is what the voter seems to want. For them, "Badlo Badal" is the cry, with the Akali Dal and its Chief Minister for ten years, Parkash Singh Badal, carrying not just the weight of incumbency, but also criticism of its failure to create jobs, run a government for the people, and provide security and law and order. The blame for the drug problem lies at Badal's feet as idle village youth have succumbed to this habit.
Jobs is a big deal, especially for the youth, who are amongst the key demographics for the AAP. Well educated and unwilling to till the land they face poor prospects of work. Their disillusionment is one of the reasons that drugs have devastated the youth in villages where elders say they can't tell you how many do drugs, but can count the handful that don't. As they say this, you can feel their pain and anger. And one of AAP's efforts is to use the youth to reach their parents, especially mothers through their sons, trying to break the tradition of women in villages following their men folk.