On the day Congress scripted a stunning victory in Punjab, its war room was missing from the scene of action.
The Mohali office of party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor, the party’s war room during Punjab elections, had been wrapped up after Punjab polls and his team, Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), was watching the election results from Lucknow, which turned out to be a bad choice. Kishor himself was in New Delhi.
But, there was a new war zone instead — at the sprawling Chandigarh residence of state party chief and CM designate Captain Amarinder Singh!
On March 11, as election results started pouring in and Congress seemed invincible since the early trends, Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh wore a deserted look.
All the action and drama after 10 am was at Amarinder Singh’s residence and the first to signal a change of guard was the entourage of Punjab officers such as KBS Sidhu, Sanjiv Gupta, SK Sharma and Ashok Gupta.
Being Amarinder’s 75th birthday, many well-wishers came with bouquets and cakes. But this time, Amarinder was not taking any chances with the media. He came down to address them only around noon when a landslide victory seemed undisputed.
However, what followed was complete mayhem. As television channel crews shouted each other down for getting the best “grab and bite”, there was pushing and shoving all around. With relatives, friends, party workers and supporters all lining up, even heavy police security deployed struggled.
Amarinder was hardly audible in the melee. He even mocked the media, reminding them it was “politicians who shout”.
Getting to ask no questions and unable to hear any answers, many journalist were happy with just the photo-op — Amarinder addressing the media with newly- wed grandson Nirvan and his wife, Mriganika, who offered him the ‘victory ladoo’.
With beats of the dhol filling the air, a few supporters broke into an impromptu bhangra. Some of the more enterprising ones like us were able to make their way inside Amarinder’s residence but had to beat a hasty retreat as the staircase leading to the first floor saw a stampede-like situation and a domestic help was seen pleading surging masses to leave the wooden railing lest it came off!
To make matters worse, Amarinder’s media team had vanished, leaving scribes and supporters to indulge in a “free for all”. Those from our fraternity who chose to stay back to get a “meatier” quote and picture of Amarinder saw him leaving for Patiala around 3 pm for his victory procession there.
Left with broken backs, selfie-sticks and damaged cameras, some aggrieved mediapersons could not help but compare the situation to last elections when the Congress had made better arrangements for them. Perhaps, one is more gracious in defeat than victory!