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With AAP in disarray, Congress pushes Punjab campaign to top gear

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 21 September 2016, 17:58 IST

The Congress party in poll-bound Punjab is going all out to cash in on the disarray in rank and file of its rival Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The party has drawn up a blueprint aimed at intensifying its campaign and reaching out the electorate at the local level.

Coming out with another catchy campaign 'Congress Liyao, Punjab Bachao' (Bring Congress, Save Punjab), the party will be rolling out its 13 publicity vans called the 'Punjab Congress Express' for every parliamentary constituency from 24 September.

This campaign follows the 45-day assembly constituency meetings by party leaders. The party claims that these vans will be a 'force multiplier' to party president Captain Amarinder Singh's ongoing Halke Vich Captain campaign.

Congress Senior Vice President Lal Singh said that during this period the party will hold 1,404 meetings - which comes to 54 meetings very day.

Senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar says, "We will interact with the people through nukkad meetings and explain the vision of the party. The entire Congress rank and file, right from the headquarters to the worker at the grassroots, is united in its fight against the Akalis."

All strategy

It is the I-PAC team of strategist Prashant Kishor that has designed the route for these vans aiming to reach out to the maximum number of voters.

Each point has been identified as a result of extensive social listening exercises carried out by the I-PAC team and the local Congress units. The demand for these meetings in those particular points and the choice of leaders addressing those gatherings have come from the public.

Places of historical significance or importance have also been given a preference in the respective areas. The campaign is to be carried out in three phases, over 37 days, touching over 1.5 crore people.

Congress leader Manpreet Badal, who is the nephew of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said, "Nine years of Badal's misrule is the cancer that has eaten up Punjab's economy. The youth have no jobs, farmers are committing suicide, crimes and atrocities against women and Dalits have risen. The teachers are on the streets. Hence, Congress has taken up upon itself to ride the Congress Express and spread the message of our Captain's trustworthy leadership."

Divide and rule

Manpreet will be leading the campaign in the Badal stronghold of Bathinda while Jakhar will lead the campaign in Ferozepur. Besides this campaign, Amarinder will continue the Halke Vich Captain program simultaneously.

It was the SAD that was the first to roll out its 50 hi-tech LED publicity vans across the state in late June. The Akalis who are battling heavy anti-incumbency are highlighting their achievements in the rural areas. The LED displays include a capsule created around the film Chaar Sahibzade (Four sons of Guru Gobind Singh) which is the main draw for the people.

The use of Char Sahibzade by the Akalis for their propaganda came under scathing criticism from AAP leadership. Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann accused the Badal government of hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs by making political use of a religious film.

The Congress is also enthused by the results of what it claims is a survey done by an independent agency that has put it way ahead of the Akalis and AAP.

Amarinder claims that the survey has put AAP at the second place but eventually the contest will be between the Congress and the Akali-BJP alliance as the disillusionment with AAP is growing day by day.

He pointed out that both the Congress and the Akalis have their assured support base which AAP lacks as it is depending on floating votes only.

Surveying the matter

Amarinder has claimed that if elections are held right now, Congress will bag about 51% votes while the AAP will bag 31% and Akali-BP alliance 18%. He added that the survey report is based on information collected a few weeks ago and much has happened in AAP since then. AAP has virtually imploded since and broken into two parts on the issue of Punjabis and outsiders.

He further claimed that the people have realised that the Congress is the only party that can provide a stable government which can retrieve and redeem Punjab from bankruptcy and anarchy. He said the Akalis have slid down beyond any hope of redemption and the AAP stands exposed over what its leaders have been found indulging in.

Ready for change

Amarinder has been saying in his programmes that the scenario in Punjab is all set to change for the Akalis once the model code of conduct comes into effect.

"The Akalis will not be able to move out of their homes after the code of conduct comes into effect. Rather they will have to run for cover as was indicated from the fear the Badals have that they sought additional security cover over over and above the Z plus protection they are already provided with," he said.

Amarinder has also said that AAP had peaked in Punjab in 2014, at the time of the Lok Sabha polls only, and since then it has only seen a progressive decline. He pointed at the recent reports about the AAP leaders getting involved in various objectionable activities that has further alienated those who saw them to be idealists and a better alternative.

He has gone to the extent of saying that AAP will not be able to win even a single seat - which seems far from reality.

Ready..set...

As he tries to infuse confidence among the Congress ranks, Amarinder appears to be the key target of the Akali campaign led by union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

In her programmes in the Badal stronghold of Malwa region, she has been saying that not only Amarinder but the Akali-BJP combine would defeat the entire Congress party with a big margin.

She has been targeting Amarinder saying that he is the same man who in the year 2002 had promised people that on forming the government he would continue all the facilities and schemes started during the previous tenure of he Badals. But when the Congress party formed the government, he not only stopped all the facilities but even stopped distribution of free electricity to farmers.

She said that recently in Mansa that Amarinder first fooled the people of Patiala by fighting Lok Sabha polls from Amritsar and now he is all set to fool the people of Amritsar as he wants to contest assembly polls from Patiala and impose a Lok Sabha by-election for the people of Amritsar.

One leader, one party

This suggests that Amarinder has successfully emerged and established himself as the face of the Congress in Punjab as others leaders have faded into the background. The turmoil in AAP has given him both time and space to put the accelerator on the Congress campaign.

Buoyed by the prevailing sentiment, the Congress party wants to further expedite its campaign with a rally in October that will be addressed by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

The rally will be held in Moga to counter a recent successful show of strength by AAP. Sources say that Rahul is keeping a keen watch on Punjab developments on day to day basis. The Congress hopes that its resurgence on the national scene begins from Punjab.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: Ensuring Congress' win in Punjab will be Prashant Kishor's toughest assignment

Also read: AAP on a roll in Punjab but don't write off Congress and Akalis

Also read: Congress gets its act together in Punjab, starts off with constituency-specific issues

First published: 21 September 2016, 17:58 IST
 
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