Punjab polls: Congress & AAP tap into farmers' resentment against SAD-BJP
With the farmers busy with harvest and procurement of their Kharif produce, political parties in Punjab are reaching out to them with special outreach programmes and campaigns.
While the Congress party on Monday launched a mega Kisan Yatra that is inspired by the same initiative undertaken by the party vice president Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh recently, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is carrying out a ' Vote Jodo Jharu Nal' (attach vote to the broom which is the poll symbol of the party). The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal - BJP combine are mainly sticking to the Sangat Darshan programmes of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for now.
Carrying on with the its new found aggression, the Kisan Yatra of the Congress got underway at Chandigarh with the party's Punjab unit president Captain Amarinder Singh promising to wipe out the last tear from the face of every farmer in the state and a vow to punish the Badals for pushing the farmers to commit suicide.
Congress raises farmers' woes
The Congress got nine widows of farmers who have committed suicide to flag off the yatra which added a punch to the initiative. These farmers had ended their lives in the recent past following their inability to pay off their debts. In some cases, the women had lost both their husband and son, to the vicious cycle of mounting debt.
Amarinder blamed the Badal government squarely for its failure to save the farmers from such pitiable existence and assured the widows,"We will not forgive them (Badals) for pushing you to such a state."
Still reeling under the debts left behind by their deceased husbands, the widows sought Amarinder's help in battling their miseries.
Amarinder reassured the widows that he would immediately waive off all farm debts once his party is back in power. He reiterated his commitment to resolving the problems of the farmer families, who he described as Punjab's engine of growth and progress through the years.
One of the widows from Rajo Majra in Sangrur, Harbans Kaur, whose husband Sohan Singh committed suicide just 22 days back over a debt of Rs. 4 lakh, said what has aggravated her woes is that the government instead of helping her out of her suffering, has now gone and put up an electric tower in the middle of her three bighas of land rendering it completely useless.
Pointing that this is a typical example of the Badal government's 'insensitive and uncaring' attitude towards the farmer families, Amarinder said,"The Badals are so busy filling their own coffers with the hard earned money of the people of Punjab that they have no time to even think of their problems."
Amarinder has timed the roadshow with the Kharif harvest to play up the issue of farmer suicides. Having promised to alleviate the sufferings of the farmers, he is expected to drive home the promise he has been making of waiving off the debts of the farmers while extending support to them once the Congress forms the government.
Amarinder is traveling in a specially designed bus that is equipped with all the basic facilities needed for his stay. The bus has a hydraulic platform from where he will address the farmer meetings along the way. A microphone and speaker system has been fit inside to enable the bus to double up as a mobile public address platform for impromptu meetings.
The 500 km long Kisan Yatra takes off from Moga and will cover the districts of Faridkot, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Muktsar, Jalalabad and Ferozepur.
Senior party leaders will join the Yatra on marked stretches and will participate in kisan sabhas and mandi meetings besides the roadshow. The Yatra is being carried out under the slogan "Karza-Kurki Khatam, Fasal Di Poori Rakam" (An end to debt and auction of land, complete payment for produce). It is expected that Rahul may join the Yatra in the later stages.
Simultaneously the AAP leaders in the state are carrying out a Vote Jodo Jharu Nal' campaign across the state. It is a voter outreach programme that the party has embarked upon from October 12 to 19.
According to AAP's state convener Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi aka Waraich the campaign centers around senior AAP leaders including co-incharge and Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh, Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and Waraich himself. The three are addressing rallies. While Jarnail is concentrating on Malwa region, Bhagwant is taking care of Majha and Waraich himself is engaged in Doaba region. They are addressing two big rallies every day.
With AAP having announced its candidates on 61 of the 117 assembly seats, the campaign is also seeing the candidates visiting five villages every day. In addition to this, around 5,000 volunteers of the party are going door to door contacting voters on the ground. AAP volunteers are also screening documentaries related to the achievements of AAP government in Delhi and carrying the message of AAP's national convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"The response to the campaign is over whelming. Anyone can carry out an independent survey on the ground to see that the people want AAP government in the state," said senior party Himmat Singh Shergil.
The AAP leadership has been playing up the success of its mohalla clinics and initiatives in public education in Delhi. Its leadership has been launching a two pronged attack on both the Congress and the Akalis while trying to convey that the two parties are playing a friendly match in Punjab's electoral field.
Waraich has been alleging that the over night protests by the Congress legislators outside Badal's house and earlier in the state assembly are stage managed that establish without a shred of doubt of their complete political collision in Punjab.
He said that no other political party, pressure group, NGO or any other union or association demanding justice has been allowed to go anywhere near Badal's official residence by the security forces. On the other hand Congress legislators were not only allowed to sit on dharna but adequate arrangements were ensured for their food and night stay for three consecutive days.
"Anyone including Amarinder and other senior leaders of the party were free to join the sit in dharna outside Badal's house as and when they pleased," he said.
AAP has also been attacking Amarinder for trying to protect Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia by not favouring a CBI probe against him on charges of his alleged involvement in drugs trade in Punjab. Amarinder has been saying that referring the matter would be a sheer waste of time. AAP leaders have been referring to Majithia as 'Drug Lord' and are facing defamation charges.
"Both Akalis and Congress are playing a friendly match and trying hard to hoodwink the people of Punjab while struggling to prop each other up in Punjab. However their frustrated and desperate moves are further taking them into political oblivion," said Waraich.
The Akalis for now are mainly sticking to Badal's Sangat Darshan programmes where he has been playing up the achievements of his government while announcing sops for various categories of the electorate. Badal has been attacking both the Congress and the AAP leaderships for trying to disrupt the peace in the state state and also working against the interests of Punjab. One issue that he has been raising every time is that of the opposition letting down Punjab on the issue of sharing Punjab's waters with its neighbours. He has been accusing the Congress of playing divisive politics and AAP being a group of unprincipled leaders.