The Congress is fighting to retain its turf in Punjab as its rivals are giving sleepless nights to the grand old party with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging as the most prominent threat, followed by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP-PLC combine headed by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.Understanding the gravity of the situation, the Congress is trying to micro manage each constituency, besides roping in senior leaders of the party to oversee the elections and fix last minute glitches in the state, which goes to the polls on February 20.Apart from the AICC in-charge for Punjab and other senior leaders, the Congress has pitched Rajeev Shukla and Deepender Singh Hooda as special observers to look after the Jat and migrant voters in the state.Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill, who is one of the young leaders of the party besides being a leading lawyer, said, "The Congress is set to return to power as people of Punjab have decided to vote to keep the wheels of development running. The Congress knows the pulse and fabric of Punjab. Its strategy, starting from manifesto drafting, candidate selection, to campaign management, has been/is being done by putting ear to the ground. The BJP, AAP and SAD are far behind in the race as they have lost steam due to their pathetic track record. On March 10, it will be 'Balle Balle Congress' in Punjab."
Though sources said that Shergill is keeping distance from campaigning, he denies any rift within the party.Shukla being a Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh will try to consolidate the migrant Hindu votes in the urban centres such as Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar, while Hooda has been roped in to garner Jat votes, after another Jat leader, Sunil Jakhar, showed his despleasure for being overlooked for the post of Chief Minister.Though Congress has left Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari out of the star campaigners' list, despite him being the lone Hindu MP of the party from Punjab, he is campaigning for the party candidates in the state.On Saturday, he addressed a public meeting in support of Congress candidate Amarpreet Lally from Garhshankar where he attacked party leader Ambika Soni, who has advocated for a Sikh Chief minister in the state, saying, "There is no Hindu-Sikh divide in Punjab. Anyone who tries to create this artificial divison is an ISI agent."Congress has picked incumbent Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as the party's chief ministerial candidate in a bid to woo Dalit voters, who form 32 per cent of the state's population.In his brief stay at the helm for 111 days, Channi has built an image of being the common man's Chief Minister by extensively touring the state, occasionally performing 'bhangra' on the beats of a 'dhol' at public functions, favouring tea at roadside eateries while narrating couplets to the masses, besides accepting 'siropas' (religious robes) by stopping his cavalcade.
The key opponents in the state the AAP, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party combine and the BJP in alliance with Amarinder Singh's Punjab Lok Congress and the Samyukt Samaj Morcha are making an issue out of the Congress' CM face.Eyeing to woo 32 per cent Dalit population in Punjab, the highest in the country, the Congress has picked Channi to lead the party and fielded him from two seats -- his bastion Chamkaur Sahib that he won three times, and his new battlefield Bhadaur.
Channi's wife Kamaljit Kaur, a doctor by profession who took voluntary retirement from a government job on January 25, is now hitting the roads in Chamkaur Sahib to help Channi retain the seat.Channi, who entered politics at the age of 20, replaced Amarinder Singh on September 19 last year as a stopgap Chief Minister.Channi, 58, is testing the political waters in Bhadaur for the first time where he's touring himself.Both Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur are reserved constituencies. He has been given the second seat to counter the growing influence of AAP in the Malwa region by consolidating Scheduled Caste votes.