With Lok Sabha elections in Punjab scheduled in the last phase, the state unit of Congress feels that the wait for voting in Punjab is too long and would make it difficult to sustain a high pitched campaign for over two months. The state would go to polls on May 19. The party now plans to restrategise its campaign by beginning a mass contact programme now, and then going for the big rallies in the end.
Congress sources said that the election in Punjab was pushed to the seventh phase as air strikes in Pakistan had no impact in favour of BJP and its allies SAD in state.
“Hence, the wait of 69 days. The BJP thinks it can whip up the campaign in their favour,” said a senior Congress leader.
The ruling party has planned its campaign under ‘Mission-13’ and has already finished the process of shortlisting the candidates by holding a meeting of screening committee in Delhi on Sunday. But the late election has “slowed the party down.” Banking on people’s anger against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on account of Bargari sacrilege and subsequent police firings, the Congress has been confident of winning most of the 13 seats.
“But two months is a long time in Punjab. Issues change quickly. We are sure the BJP would finish with all major states and later push all their big guns in Punjab for electioneering,” said a Congress leader on anonymity.
A Cabinet minister told The Indian Express they would change their plan, “Who would want to waste all energy two months before the election. We will push all our major rallies towards the fag end. We will only start a personal contact programme now. We will turn this period into an advantage. Those workers who got annoyed with us during panchayat elections will be placated now. We will utilise this time for the placating exercise.”
The leader said they understand that Punjab would have harvesting season in April but it hardly picks up by April 10. The election could have been held here in the first phase or in early May as it becomes sweltering hot in that month in Punjab.
Akalis, on the other hand, are overjoyed at the schedule of election in state, “We are gaining everyday. We will utilise each day for consolidating. It is a God sent opportunity,” said an Akali leader.
SAD spokesperson Parambans Singh Romana said, “Congress is in bad shape. The General of their army (PPCC president) has run away from his home ground, Ferozepur and is seeking a ticket from Gurdaspur…They are urging on Dr Manmohan Singh to save their honour…Is this what they call a comfortable position?” he asked.
Punjab Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “The election schedule is well thought through by the BJP. Not only in Punjab but all states where the BJP is not being seen as doing well, elections are in the last phase. But it does not bother us. It will give us more time to help us increase the victory margins. BJP and their allies SAD will be decimated.”