Congress candidate from Gurdaspur and state party president, Sunil Jakhar, wrapped up his election campaign by holding a well participated road show in BJP stronghold of Sujanpur even as he struck a cautious note on the outcome of the election.
Jakhar is locked in a high profile face-off with BJP’s Sunny Deol in one of the most avidly watched contests of the elections.
Jakhar, remained headquartered in Pathankot throughout the campaign, went around Sujanpur in heavy rain with supporters in tow. Congress, which had been lagging behind in certain BJP dominated areas, had received a booster shot with the rally held by party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi in Pathankot Wednesday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sunil Jakhar said all seven Congress MLAs in Gurdaspur constituency have done massive hard work to ensure party’s win. “However, one can never say what the final outcome will be. It is what the voter will finally decide on the day of polling,” he says.
From Sujanpur, Jakhar rushed back to his residence in Pathankot for a change of the rain-drenched clothes before getting back on the road for a rally in Bhoa constituency. Due to the unexpected reaponse in Sujanpur, he cancelled plans for a roadshow in Dinanagar due to paucity of time and EC deadline for campaigning.
Congress has been facing the problem of dissidence within the ranks at village levels due to mishandling during the panchayat polls. Jakhar accepts that there were issues related to panchayat polls and disgruntled supporters but says all that has been sorted out now.
Reacting to a question about starpower of Deol pulling crowds, Jakhar says his levels of ignorance were astounding. “Had I expressed ignorance about Balakot, BJP people would have torn my clothes off. But BJP leaders are defending him saying he lives in Mumbai and does not know about Balakot and accuse us of defaming him. This is amusing,” he says.
Referring to the inability of the BJP candidate to deal with issues related to the constituency, Jakhar says,” In case he gets elected to Parliament, will he take along three BJP leaders, like he does now, to get coaching?”
He heaps praises on party MLAs who have worked for his campaign, particularly Sukhjinder Randhawa (Dera Baba Nanak) and Barindermeet Singh Pahra (Gurdaspur). “The entire Pahra family, including the women, have been out in the field going door to door. I cannot repay them ever for making so much effort for me,” he says
At the last public meeting of the campaign in Taragarh village, Jakhar raises the issue of failed economic policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The venue of the rally was right next to the local BJP election office, perhaps deliberately to sound a challenge.
“He will get much more votes than ever from here. Things have improved tremendously in past three days ever since Priyanka Gandhi came. No one is now talking about Deol’s roadshows,” says Amandeep, a local Congress worker.
At Congress war room in Gurdaspur city, the mood is perky. A huge crowd of workers is present and gets briefing from one of the senior leaders who has been sent from Chandigarh to organise the campaign.
“For a while there was unrest in the minds of the Congress workers on seeing the roadshows of Deol. But after having seen that this is all he does and he has no issues to talk about that advantage is gone. The BJP has gone for a top down approach while we have gone through every constituency twice,” says the Congress leader not willing to be identified.
The lack of interest shown in Jakhar’s campaign by former Gurdaspur MP and sitting Rajya Sabha MP, Partap Singh Bajwa, may also cast an effect on the overall performance. Jakhar says he has not been in touch with Bajwa but his younger brother Fatehjung Bajwa has been doing hectic campaigning in his constituency Qadian.
The hectic campaign may be over but the backroom maneouvering will continue till the day of polling. “There is no time to rest. The voting has to take place and then there is the big day of the result. And this time because of VVPAT machines it will take longer to get a result,” Jakhar says.
Back in Pathankot when asked about his gut feeling about the result on May 23, Jakhar laughs. “I have no gut feelings saab. I have fared poorly when I thought I would do well and I have got thumping majority when I thought things were grim. All depends on the voter,” he says.