Akalis go hi-tech, invoke Punjabi pride to counter AAP & Congress
Faced with a heavy anti incumbency and cornered by opposition parties on a range of issues, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) in Punjab has launched a heavy duty counter attack in the form of a publicity campaign.
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Akali cadres have been told to counter the opposition's 'propaganda' on all platforms while the government itself has launched a massive publicity campaign to show case its achievements in the last nine years.
With changing times, the Akalis are trying to adapt to the modern means of communication. Despite the popular perception of the party being rural centric having a support base among the farmers, this time around the party is gearing itself to battle it out on the social media with hashtags and posts besides the traditional modes of campaign.
In perhaps the first of its kind initiative in the state, the information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia has flagged off 50 hi-tech LED vans that will will fan out across the state to spread awareness about government schemes.
"We will highlight both the achievements of the government from making the state power surplus, to the creation of record road infrastructure as well as provide awareness about various social welfare schemes so that the maximum number of deserving people can be taken under their ambit,"Majithia said.
Besides disseminating information on government schemes, the LED displays will also include a capsule created around the film 'Chaar Sahibzade' (Four sons of Guru Gobind Singh) which was in itself a singular voice against oppression and tyranny. The inbuilt GPS system with latest vehicle tracking equipment and surveillance cameras has been installed in these vehicles to help monitor vehicle movement and public response.
Majithia claims that this project will be a befitting answer to opposition parties spreading lies about the work done in Punjab during the last nine years. "We will showcase the development done by us as well as the genuine socio-economic change we have ushered in. Following this the people can themselves compare the present SAD-BJP government with the previous Congress one."
The Akalis are harping on making Punjab power surplus, developing a road network, establishment of international airports at Amritsar and Mohali along with domestic terminals at Bathinda and Adampur besides the sops that have been announced for various sections.
The biggest challenge being faced by the Akalis remains how to counter the offensive by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress on the issues of farm crisis and drug menace across the state. The controversy over the recent Bollywood flick Udta Punjab and the government continuing to be in a mode of denial has put the Akalis on the back foot and its leaders are trying desperately to counter the charges.
The party has also launched a series of radio advertisements where people are shown claiming that they do not have any drug addict in their family or among relatives and friends.
"We are countering the propaganda launched by the opposition parties through the media to defame Punjab. Can you tell me how many people in your circle are drug addicts? In the 1980s there was a campaign to term every youth a terrorist and now everyone is being called a drug addict. Nobody talks about the power subsidy of Rs 6,000 crore being given to the farmers. The governments led by Parkash Singh Badal have always been pro-farmer," senior Akali leader Virsa Singh Valtoha told Catch.
He further stated, " Drugs are a global phenomena. Punjab is bearing the stigma because of large confiscation of smuggled drugs here. We have been taking up the matter effectively with the Centre. Till a couple of years back did you ever hear about smugglers being the casualty along the border? We are doing everything to check drug smuggling."
Akali leaders are also projecting that if the youth in the state was addicted to drugs at such a large scale, the teams from universities of Punjab would not be winning laurels in sports events at the national level. They are also demanding that a comparative survey on drug addiction be carried out in Delhi and Punjab. Stickers claiming that Punjab is not a drug haven can be seen posted on vehicles and other places.
However, the opposition attacks are also getting shriller by the day. "The Akalis have done nothing for the state in the last nine years. If they had delivered they would not have to launch such publicity and advertisement campaigns now. They can highlight their achievements in terms of promoting drugs, forcing the farmers to commit suicides and landing the peasantry in deep crisis," said senior AAP leader Succha Singh Chhotepur while claiming that no amount of campaigns can save the Akalis from being thrown out this time.
Undaunted by the attacks, the Akalis have also taken the social media by storm. Leading the initiative is the Bathinda MP and union food processing industry minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal who has become very active on social networking sites. She has started an initiative #AskMeMondays to interact with the people.
The party has been telling its cadres to get active on social media. The effort is being supplemented by its overseas cells. Like other political parties, the Akalis too have set up an information technology wing that is managing its campaign on the internet.
The party is also in the process of developing a series of mobile apps to target the young. These apps will advertise the government's achievements and provide the users area specific information on developmental initiatives.
Despite being dominated by rural voters, the state is all set to witness a cyber war among the parties ahead of the forthcoming assembly polls.