With barely a week to go for zila parishad and block samiti polls in Punjab,the SAD leadership is yet to get into election mode.
Over two dozen out of the 333 zila parishad zones are already in SADs kitty after its candidates were elected unopposed. The party,however,is yet to finalise the campaign schedule of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal,if any,for the run up to the polls.
Though SAD general secretary Dr D S Cheema said the two will not campaign for these elections,which are more a local affair,sources said Sukhbir has called a meeting on Tuesday to study the situation on the ground and then review the decision about his campaigning.
The Akalis are gaining comfort from the knowledge that rural polls are throwing up results in its favour and there have been no exceptions to this,except in a very few localised pockets. But with state Congress leaders firing from all corners,the run up to the elections has become interesting.
While use of liquor and drugs to woo voters has been the hallmark of these polls,violence on election day is also fairly common. The Congress is not going to let anything go pass and even if it may not lead them to victory,it has enough to gain by crying wolf.
Round one,for instance,seemed to have gone in SADs favour,but Congress allegations of the SAD having managed withdrawals that led to its candidates getting elected unopposed has had SAD workers shifting in their seats.
Sukhbir,considered unbeatable when it comes to elections,is also feeling the pressure. Though the likelihood of the chief minister joining in the campaign is dim,Sukhbir is expected to take the campaign into his own hands. Sukhbir campaigned for these elections in select areas in 2008 as well.
The areas were chosen carefully after due deliberations at the party level where his presence was considered to be absolutely necessary to tip the scales in our favour. This time the situation is very different from 2008. Then the BJP was also against us. This time we are in a far stronger position. Our victory is ensured, said a senior SAD leader.
The focus areas for the SAD in 2008 were the districts of Malwa region,where the party had fared poorly in the 2007 Assembly polls. However,in 2012,the Akalis and the BJP fared fairly well in Malwa. The focus has shifted to some pockets of Majha where Congress won in 2012 and some Malwa seats. We dont have much competition in Doaba, said a SAD leader.
It is not a simple arithmetic though. The issues on which these polls are held are local. These have mainly to do with drinking water,open sewerage,shamlat land,attendance of teachers in government schools,powercuts,tubewell connections and illegal mining. The manner in which these elections have to be handled is different. The local SAD MLA is in charge of the areas under him,he has to move about in the villages and campaign. These elections are the real test of the MLAs, the leader added.