Chandigarh, April 19 : The Punjab Congress is in damage control following the much hyped visit of party supremo Rahul Gandhi that should have rather boosted it up. It seems the party’s poll managers who had designed his visit realized the extent of damage the next day. The very first such exercise has left the party further dented and that too at the time when efforts are being made to resuscitate it.
The issue that is perceived to have done further damage is a non-issue at one level as this is neither the time to announce Capt Amarinder Singh as the chief ministerial candidate nor there is any remote possibility that in case, by any chance, the Congress is voted to power, of his being kept out. However, it was Rahul Gandhi’s attitude to this issue that has raised the controversy. He was faced with this question repeatedly, including at his interaction with select media people in the morning and later at the party conclave. He made it clear that the announcement would be made at the appropriate time.
Here is a party that is down, although not out and as such, the leaders should take consolation in the fact that there is little scope of its getting damaged further. The party appears to be in awe of the Aam Aadmi Party that, on the surface, has the image of being the people’s movement with every shade of people flocking to it, from extreme Right to extreme Left.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has repeatedly declared that his father and five time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is party’s best asset even at the time when he is nearing 90 but continues to be mentally alert as ever. One fails to understand as to why he has not passed on the baton to his son or why the son can’t jump into the election arena without betting on his father when Punjab has a large population of young people. The generation gap with Badal as the chief ministerial candidate would be too wide.
The interesting part in case of Akali Dal is that it is Sukhbir who has earned the reputation of master poll strategist who is well-versed with micro-management but the problem this time is the tsunami of anti-incumbency that the ruling alliance is confronted with. The BJP leadership in the state has been too weak and its leaders are also perceived to be tainted.
The Congress has been failing to mobilise people despite such heavy anti-incumbency as the party leaders are too self centred and equally degenerated who too face certain degree of anti-incumbency. People don’t trust them. The party would have to bring in new faces to put up semblance of a fight. Of course, the party has its own support base but it has been getting eroded over the years. It is AAP that has emerged to provide space to the people who have drifted away from both the Congress as well as the Akali Dal-BJP combine. This has the danger of AAP turning into junk yard.
AAP too lacks a face to project as a chief ministerial candidate. AAP, although came up as a party promising alternative model of politics, is personality driven with no other leader having emerged after its convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Punjab has a sizeable section among the Sikhs that is anti-Badal and there are various Sikh groups who are in the processing of negotiating a deal with Kejriwal. This section has been extending tacit support to Capt Amarinder Singh earlier. This time, these groups are keeping their options open and the final outcome would depend as to what is offered to them either by the Congress or AAP as part of the tacit understanding.
In the Congress, it is only Capt Amarinder Singh who is trusted by majority of these groups. That can’t be said about any leader in AAP although party MLA Jarnail Singh has been in touch with some people in Punjab. The final deal has to be cleared by Kejriwal.
The situation would start shaping up only after the announcement of candidates as it is only a hype so far. Sukhbir is fully aware of the grassroots reality and finalizing his strategy but it is the Congress that has still to reach even the starting line so far.