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Sukhdeep Kaur, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, April 05, 2014
He has taken a backseat in the high-pitched parliamentary elections after 10 years in office but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to be in “demand” in Punjab’s Sikh-dominated constituencies. The outgoing Sikh PM is among the top three in the state Congress’ list of star campaigners, which also includes Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice- president Rahul Gandhi. Singh has so far has addressed a maiden poll rally in Assam, a state he represents in the Rajya Sabha.

The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has written to the PM’s office seeking dates. “We have already sent an invite to the PM. He will be a crowd-puller in Sikh-dominated constituencies, especially the ones with high rural Sikh vote such as Khadoor Sahib and Faridkot,” said Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa.

According to Bajwa, once they get the dates, the constituencies to be visited by the PM, Sonia and Rahul will be decided depending on the choice of candidates.

“The PM may also go to Bathinda for electioneering, though it will finally depend on who Manpreet Badal (Congress-joint candidate against Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal) wants to campaign for him. Rahul is likely to visit the constituencies of youth candidates and Sonia of senior candidates,” Bajwa added. The party is learnt to have sought dates for at least two public meetings each from the PM, Sonia and Rahul, which may be addressed by them the same day or two different days.

One of the three will also be campaigning for Manpreet in Bathinda, state’s second most hotly- contested seat after Amritsar. “We would definitely like the PM, Sonia or Rahul to campaign in Bathinda. The details have still to be worked out. Both Bajwa and Amarinder too have promised to campaign for Manpreet,” People’s Party of Punjab leader Gurpreet Bhatti said.

With its top line in battlefield — Capt Amarinder Singh, Sunil Jakhar, Bajwa and Ambika Soni — the party may not need star campaigners from outside the state. But in the last leg of electioneering, it will unleash its “star power” by roping in not just its national leaders but also Congress chief ministers of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh — Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Virbhadra Singh — to campaign in Punjab constituencies bordering their respective states.

During the 2012 Punjab polls, the PM had addressed rallies in Amritsar and Ludhiana, both Sikh-dominated seats with higher urban Sikh voters.