Indian Express

Amritsar set for PM vs Modi contest

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Modi rally scheduled, Manmohan could fit one in. Modi rally scheduled, Manmohan could fit one in.

Already witnessing a high-profile contest between Arun Jaitley and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, Amritsar could become the only Lok Sabha seat in this election where both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi will be testing their electoral prowess. While the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is already scheduled to address a rally in Amritsar, the Congress is learnt to be considering the option of organising a Manmohan Singh rally there to shore up Amarinder’s chances.

“The prime minister will be addressing a couple of rallies in Punjab. Most probably, he will address a rally at Amritsar too,” AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab Shakeel Ahmed told The Indian Express. Due to the harvest season that may be keeping farmers busy, said party sources, the local Congress leadership is not very keen on organising too many rallies by central leaders and would rather focus on tapping local anti-incumbency against the SAD government.

Between Jaitley and Amarinder, it’s anybody’s guess as to who would gain more from his party’s rally, but Manmohan Singh’s address in such a hotly-contested constituency would certainly send a message about the Congress’ vote of confidence in the prime minister who has been used very sparingly in the party’s poll campaign this time. Compared to about 50 rallies that Manmohan Singh was said to have addressed in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, in 2014 he has so far got calls to address a rally each in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. He is also scheduled to address a rally in Hyderabad on April 24 and is expected to claim credit for the UPA government for statehood for Telangana indirectly rebutting the Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s claim.

“It’s not true that we don’t want to use him in our campaign. Dr Manmohan Singh knows the truths of a market economy, especially in a liberalisation era. It’s all related to the demand-supply logic. What can we do if our candidates don’t ask for him?” said another party general secretary. “Let’s not get into it. You can’t force an MP to organise a meeting for somebody. He (the candidate) has his own priorities,” said a state Congress leader.

Congress strategists confided that while the party leadership has taken a call on turning on heat on Modi questioning his secular credentials, or the lack of these, there is also an attempt to “localise” this election limiting the debate to local candidates and factors. “After ten years in power, especially in the current mood of despondency and cynicism about the UPA government’s performance, who can ask for votes for Manmohan Singh’s achievements? As a matter of fact, we don’t want even Rahul Gandhi to campaign here if we could help it,” said a Congress candidate in Uttar Pradesh.

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