Battle for Punjab: Congress banks on Majha, Doaba. Draws 9-point map to gain upper hand in Malwa
Being slightly edged out by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Malwa region, the Congress is banking heavily on its prospects in the remaining two regions of Majha and Doaba to emerge victorious in the battle for the Punjab Assembly.
The party is giving its own reasons for looking towards eventually gaining an upper hand in Malwa towards the fag end of the campaign.
While Malwa has 69 of the total 117 Assembly seats, Majha accounts for 25 seats and Doaba has 23.
The party leadership is very optimistic of sweeping the Majha area and also of playing dominant in the Doaba areas. While Majha remains the weakest point for AAP, this new entrant on Punjab's political turf has seen maximum dissidence and rebellion in the Doaba region.
At its optimum best the Congress is eying 19 to 21 seats in Majha and 15 to 17 seats in Doaba.
It is looking for electoral gains in Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar districts. It has unleashed cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as its new star campaigner in these regions. Sidhu is himself contesting for the Amritsar (East) seat.
The party has now started concentrating on the Malwa region where it is hoping that its strategy of fielding heavyweights will have an impact in the constituencies adjoining their own.
- Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh is contesting from Patiala and Lambi, the home turf of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal
- Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu is contesting from Jalalabad, the constituency of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal
- Former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is fighting on Lehra seat
- Manpreet Singh Badal is contesting the Bathinda seat
The party has chalked out an action plan under which the top leadership including the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi along with Amarinder and Sidhu will focus on the 16 Assembly seats falling in the central parts of Malwa including Barnala, Mansa and parts of Sangrur.
Amarinder along with other important state leaders will cover the Congress strongholds and also the Assembly constituencies from where the party candidates had lost by narrow margins last time.
Such constituencies have been termed as 'Battleground Constituencies' by the Congress. The party is also expecting to reap dividends from the influence of its Abohar candidate Sunil Jakhar on the neighbouring seats in Muktsar district and that of its candidate Davinder Singh Ghubaya among the Rai Sikh community in the Ferozepur belt.
Davinder is the son of sitting Akali MP Sher Singh Ghubaya.
9 plans for success
The Congress has also launched a fresh door to door campaign under which its volunteers are going to the voters telling them of 'Captain ke Naun Nukte' (Nine point programme of Amarinder).
Those running the campaign machinery believe that this is a strong positive campaign that will seal the deal in voters' mind as to why they should pick the Congress
The nine promises in 'Captain De Naun Nukte' are the most populist steps announced for the electorate with catchy slogans.
1. Captain Ne Saun Chakki, Har Ghar Ikk Naukri Pakki
The first one is 'Captain Ne Saun Chakki, Har Ghar Ikk Naukri Pakki' (The Captain promises a job for every household). This is meant to woo the youth voters between the ages of 18 and 35. Till such employment is provided, they will be given an unemployment allowance of Rs 2500 per month
2. Karza Kurki Khatam, Fasal Di Puri Rakam
The second nukta is 'Karza Kurki Khatam, Fasal Di Puri Rakam' (An end to debts and auction of land holdings besides full payment for farm produce). This is debt waiver aimed to win over the farmers.
3. Char Haftiyan Vich Punjab Ton Nasha Khatam
The third nukta is 'Char Haftiyan Vich Punjab Ton Nasha Khatam' (An end to drug menace in four weeks). This is a campaign aimed at those bearing the brunt of drug menace. Besides promising to uproot the menace in four weeks, the Congress is promising free treatment along with rehabilitation to drug addicts.
4. 5 Rupaye Vich Bhar Pet Bhojan
The next nukta is '5 Rupaye Vich Bhar Pet Bhojan'. This is a 'Sasti Roti' (cheap food scheme under which the poor will be provided with a meal for just Rs 5. In addition to this, they will also be provided cheap sugar and tea leaves under the present 'Atta Daal' scheme.
5. Captain Smart Connect Scheme
The fifth nukta is the ambitious 'Captain Smart Connect Scheme' under which all the matriculates between 18 to 35 years of age will be provided with a free smart phone with one year of free 3G data and calling to help them explore new avenues of employment.
6. Auratan Layi 33%
The sixth Nukta being communicated by the Congress volunteers is 'Auratan Layi 33%' promising 33% reservation in jobs for women.
7. Vyapar ate Udyog Layi 5 Rupaye Vich Bijli
The next nukta is targeting traders and industrialists by offering them power at Rs 5/unit while the farmers will continue to get free electricity. The tagline of the nukta is 'Vyapar ate Udyog Layi 5 Rupaye Vich Bijli'.
8. Captain Da Aelan, Har Gareeb Nu Makan
The party is also campaigning with the slogan 'Captain Da Aelan, Har Gareeb Nu Makan' (Captain's promise for housing to all). This aims at providing five marla plots or free houses to the five lakh poor households along with a financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh.
9. Increase in pension and Shagun schemes
The ninth nukta promises an increase in pension and Shagun schemes. The pensions for old age, widows and disabled persons will be enhanced to Rs. 2,500 per month and the grant for Shagun scheme will be increased to Rs 51,000
To ensure that the nine promises of Amarinder reach every household of Punjab, the 'Naun Nuktas' have been printed on collaterals such as rulers, calenders, and pamphlets.
These collaterals are being distributed during rallies and their door-to-door activities explaining their significance to the people.
The party has also taken to the social media in a big way to reach out to the voters. The party insiders claim that the Congress outreach numbers have surpassed that of AAP and SAD.
The digital strategy aims to capitalise on the base created by the previous campaigns. Ditching the old style of disseminating information, the party's digital team is equipped with animated videos and video of Amarinder explaining the 'Naun Nuktas' to everyone.
Given the importance of each nukta, a dedicated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is being created to capitalise on the database generated from the previous campaigns.
To give it a local touch, a video of the local candidates informing the people in their constituency about the 'Naun Nuktas' are also being made and shared on the district-level 'Punjab Da Captain' pages.
The Congress has also started its campaign on the local FM radio networks from Wednesday. The party plans to use the airwaves effectively to particularly catch the attention of the youngsters on the move who keep listening to the FM channels while driving or traveling.
But before it is able to realise its dream of winning Punjab, the Congress needs to take down the rebels and the leaders who are trying to damage its prospects from within the party.
It remains to be seen how far Amarinder's threat of sending them out of the party for lifetime work.
He has been saying that those who have not got tickets but are working to ensure the party's victory will be accommodated in various boards and corporations once the party forms the government.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen