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Monday, March 01, 2021

Punjab For Cong, a battle of prestige, for others a taste of things to come

Campaign ends with all parties pushing for votes.

Written by Raakhi Jagga , Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh, Ludhiana |
February 13, 2021 9:49:35 am
Finance Minister Manpreet Badal campaigns in Bathinda on Friday. (Gurmeet Singh)

With just a year to go for the Assembly elections in Punjab, political parties are leaving no stone unturned to make a mark in the upcoming local body elections. Given the importance all parties in the state are attaching to the upcoming contest, the last day of the campaign Friday saw hectic political activity across districts.

While AAP concluded their campaign with roadshows which they had started from Monday, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal was in Mohali to campaign for candidates of Mohali Municipal corporation.

BJP president could not be seen during any poll activity in Punjab though the party organised small foot marches in markets of various districts. Congress candidates, on the other hand, campaigned on their own along with the local MLAs or ministers.

Independent candidates also did road shows in many parts of the state.

Bathinda, which is the politically important belt for all political parties, witnessed roadshows and rallies by all political parties.

For the ruling Congress, that has fielded maximum candidates in the state on the party symbol, the civic body elections are being seen as battle of prestige. More so, as the party is hoping for a return in 2022 Assembly polls. SAD and BJP too face a challenge as both political parties would be contesting an election independently after two decades of alliance.

While SAD has been facing anger in the state for siding with BJP on the issue of farm laws earlier, the party’s performance would be a barometer of people’s sentiments about the party.

For BJP, which is facing unprecedented anger in the state against farm laws, it remains to be seen whether the urban areas will still back its nominees.

The AAP too is looking for a resurrection in the state after its lost ground post its impressive performance in 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the state.

The Congress, meanwhile, is confident of a comfortable victory in all civic bodies especially after farmers’ Mahapanchayat in Jagraon on Thursday, “I was listening to Balbir Singh Rajewal. He did not hit at Punjab government. He kept his attack on the Centre and the Narendra Modi government. We were watching the Mahapanchayat keenly. This is not going to affect us much.” said a party leader. The party has fielded all its ministers in the districts to campaign for the party candidates.

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Friday concluded the campaign at Goniana Mandi as he described his politics as ‘Sharafat di Siyasat’ (politics of modesty). Addressing voters, he said,” We have done sharafat di siyasat in Bathinda and not even a single nomination paper of any candidate has been rejected in Bathinda. We are getting huge response from not only Bathinda but the whole of Punjab. For the past 53 years, Congress has never formed its committee in Municipal Corporation in Bathinda and hence I am hopeful of good results this time. I believe that people still trust Capt Amarinder Singh and Congress party and hence we have high hopes even in 2022 Vidhan Sabha polls.”

Manpreet also took out a roadshow in the town area on the concluding day. “We will win for sure, but I am not an astrologer to predict the exact number of seats,” he said.

Unlike other political parties, PPCC president Sunil Jakhar was not seen campaigning anywhere in Punjab, though he was leading state level dharna on inflation in Abohar on February 11.

His office revealed that all the MLAs are getting huge response in every district and are confident of positive results in the polls.

The SAD, meanwhile, is hopeful that its pulling out of NDA and Harsimrat Badal’s resignation from Narendra Modi Cabinet will turn the tide for them. All senior SAD leaders have been canvassing in the state.

SAD president Sukhbir Badal is also in Punjab since February 3 after cutting short his Parliament attendance as he is campaigning for the local body candidates across the state.

Sukhbir concluded his campaign in Mohali. In the entire campaign, Badal had been making claims of forming government in 2022.

The BJP has pinned its hopes on cities. “We will do well. There is nothing to worry,” a BJP leader said. It had been tough for BJP to campaign for their candidates. State party chief Ashwani Sharma’s vehicle was followed by protestors at every place he went. Sharma, however, was not seen in the field on Friday, but local leadership did take out small foot marches in many districts. In Dhuri, it was taken out by Randeep Deol, district BJP president, Sangrur. Deol said,”We took out a foot march in Dhuri and Malerkotla as well and it went well. Few handful of protesters sent by Congress did come at times. However, voters in general never misbehaved with us.”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that started with road shows from Monday onward concluded with roadshows in Malerkotla, Ahmedgarh and Dhuri which were organised by LoP Harpal Singh Cheema. “I concluded the campaign in Dhuri for our AAP candidates. In this campaign, I found an interesting change that in every political meeting women were more than men. Hence, women have now started coming out of their houses and are taking interest in politics. These winds of change cannot be ignored by anyone,” said Cheema.

AAP state president Bhagwant Mann came only for a day to campaign on February 11. Cheema, however, was seen active throughout the campaign. He said, “No doubt these local body polls are very important to us considering the 2022 Vidhan Sabha polls.”

Independent candidates also made their last minute efforts.

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