Home » Congress flip flops in election campaign may damage the party respects; AAP is getting some boost following last minute appeal by Kejriwal

Congress flip flops in election campaign may damage the party respects; AAP is getting some boost following last minute appeal by Kejriwal

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 4 minutes read

By Harihar Swarup

A columnist has aptly summed up the poll scene in Punjab and how the ruling congress party committed gaffe after gaffe. “The Congress’s campaign in Punjab is a lesson how not to win elections”, he wrote. Chief Minister Charanjit Channi, appears to be a general without foot soldiers, his peers putting spokes rather than lending shoulders to the party’s electioneering.
A majority of the Congress’s 11 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs from the state had opposed Navjot Sidhu’s elevation as the party unit’s President. Most of them are now confined to their constituencies and did not show any interest in selection of the party’s poll candidate. It was known that the then Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, was not on good terms with Sidhu. As a matter of policy, the PCC chief is appointed in consultation with CM so that government and organization function in co-ordination. From day one of his appointment, Sidhu started working against CM in a bid to replace him.
The worst happened when the central leadership began humiliating Amarinder Singh and ultimately removed him, virtually forcing him to quit the Congress even as Congress President, Sonia Gandhi told Capt. to continue. It is well known that Amarinder Singh has deep roots in Punjab; this was evident when he defeated Arun Jaitley in Lok Sabha elections. Under Amarinder’s leadership the Congress might have retained Punjab.
The Aam Admi Party and SAD, in the meanwhile, are going ahead with full speed. Arvind Kejriwal is frequent Flyer to Punjab where his local mascot Bhagwant Singh Mann has been vigorously campaigning.
Known for bipolar fights between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal, Punjab appears a psephologist’s nightmare. On the face of it, the question isn’t as to who would form the government, or get a majority. The rush apparently is for single-largest party status.
As the vote date (on February 20) nears, this real time poll bulleting could change. A prognosis that wouldn’t perhaps alter is about defeats and victories with small margins. That’s essentially because the voter is spoiled across the Doab (23), Majha (25) and Malwa (69) regions that together account for the 117-member assembly. Besides, the Congress, SAD- BSP and AAP, there’s the BJP-Punjab Lok Congress and a farmers’ formation in the arena.
In 2017, the Congress, then led by Amarinder Singh, had romped home with flying colours in all three regions, especially Malwa, where it won all except two of 25 seats. The SAD and BJP got one seat each; Majitha (Amritsar) and Sujanpur (Pathankot). The honours then shared by Navjit Singh Sidhu, who campaigned in concert with the Captain, winning for himself the Amritsar (East) constituency.
The Captain now is a BJP ally and Sidhu a pale version of his charismatic self. The latter’s presence in the ongoing campaign is going to be restricted, given the tough challenge he faces from the SDA’s Bikram Majithia, who has shifted his base from his Majitha pocket borough to fight from Amritsar.
The former cricketer continues to draw crowds; rendered doubtful by his excitable ways is his excitable ways in his ability to make the electorate stay and sway. His impetuous personal conduct belying the wisdom he spews, there are serious questions about his leadership acumen, making the lesser orator, Charnjit Singh Channi, shine in contrast.
The Congress’s understated chief ministerial face might have upstaged Sidhu in their intra-party tussle for prominence. But he has his task cut out as the party’s sole pan-Punjab canvasser. The incumbent party’s eclectic 2017 appeal isn’t in evidence in Majha and has waned considerably in Doab where the expected Dalit polarization appears truncated by BSP’s SAD-aided countervailing thrust.
What makes the climb steeper for Channi in Malwa is the grant of furlough to the imprisoned Dera Sachcha Sauda Chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, whose band of obedient supporters could alter the outcome in close fight across the electorally crucial region stretching from Patiala to Fazilka and Ferozepur.
Its common talk in the countryside that Dera, probed for sacrilege cases (which damaged the SAD in the previous elections) would work against the Congress and help the BJP, whose government in Haryana has set its chief free for 21 days ahead of Punjab elections.
Much in the manner of the farmers’ alliance (the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha), the Dera might cut into the potential APP support base of marginal farmers and other social group. But the strength of Arvind Kejriwal’s party is its eik mouqa (one chance) appeal in an ambience where people feel let down, even betrayed, by mainline contestants.
Kejriwal indeed has acquired greater acceptability after projecting Bhagwant Singh Mann, the MP from Sangrur, as chief ministerial candidate. He is to Mann what Anna Hazare was to him in 2011-12 India Against Corruption movement that catapulted him to fame and political power.
At the core of his poll promises is the Delhi model of relief (freebies) and development. Not just that, many candidates the party has fielded are from technocrat, civil servants and social activist stock and that imparted luster to its maiden 2014 bid for power.
(IPA Service)

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