The Punjab Democratic Democratic Alliance candidate from Patiala, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi is waging two battles in the Lok Sabha constituency. First the obvious: The sitting MP, who is seeking re-election, is pitched in a direct contest against former Union minister and Congress leader Preneet Kaur. The second is a battle of perception. Gandhi, who had contested the 2014 General Election as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate, is still identified with that party’s symbol – broom – and not the microphone, the symbol the Election Commission has allotted to his political outfit Nawan Punjab Party.
The NPP is part of the PDA. The AAP has fielded Neena Mittal, a volunteer who worked for the party during 2013 Delhi Assembly elections and also canvassed for Gandhi in Patiala in 2014. With the canvassing picking up pace for the May 19 polls, Gandhi and his volunteers are now spending considerable time creating awareness among the electorate about his new symbol.
Gandhi’s aide Palwinder Kaur Hariyon, who had contested the 2017 Assembly election from Shutrana as AAP candidate and had later quit the party, said they understand about the issue pertaining to the symbol. “But we are working on it. It will be sorted.”
Gandhi too said that he was getting reports that people were not aware about his symbol. “I have got the reports. I am going to work to fix this. We will spend next 10 days publicizing it so that the symbol sinks in with the electorate”.
As a part of the strategy, Gandhi’s team is ensuring that they have in-charge at all 2000 booths in 1200 villages of the constituency. “The challenge is that these booths are manned by not just one but four people. We are fighting against the ruling party. Anything can be done to our booth managers. Having more than one booth in charge will ensure that we have at least one person there,” said a member of Gandhi’s team.
The booth in-charge can help create awareness about the symbol. “We do not want that the votes meant for Gandhi go to AAP candidate,” said the team member.
During 2014 elections, Gandhi did not have many booths in-charge in the constituency. The voters had voluntarily voted for broom helping Gandhi defeated Preneet Kaur with a margin of over 20,000 votes.