In the hotlycontested Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, the Congress and the Akali-BJP alliance are busy playing spy games. The rival camps are spending as much time, if not more, on monitoring each other’s daily campaign schedule as on planning their own.
While it was BJP candidate Arun Jaitley who devised the “lose weight, win votes” formula by meeting Amritsaris by taking a morning walk on Sundays, Congress candidate Capt Amarinder Singh was quick to put on his walking shoes. The two fatefully met at the city’s sprawling Company Bagh the next Sunday.
The BJP camp is not far behind. Jaitley’s team is closely watching Amarinder’s every move and has compiled a list of the Captain’s misses on Sunday. The party claims that the Captain had on Sunday “cancelled” his last two public meetings in urban areas and reached late at Dharampur Kalle village, the third-last venue for the day.
They are also privy to details of Amarinder’s schedule for the next two days - that he was going out of the constituency for “personal reasons”, including a wedding. Their other ammunition is the time Amarinder starts his day and campaign.
These are enough “misses” for Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma to term Amarinder a non-serious candidate. “Amarinder has realised it is a losing proposition, so he is now concentrating more on his family seat of Patiala, being contested by wife Preneet Kaur.
Though he has been camping in Amritsar, his campaign has been non-serious. It is in his nature to be nonserious. He was non-serious as a chief minister, state Congress chief and even a family man,” Sharma said.
Terming the BJP’s “fixation” with his schedule and timings as “defeat-induced anxiety”, Amarinder claimed that the last two meetings in urban areas were not cancelled. “Since nine meetings in rural and urban areas were scheduled for the day, the programme was delayed. We did not cancel it.
My brother (Malwinder Singh) addressed the last two meetings...” “...Why are they so bothered about my schedule and the meetings I miss? Jaitley should be worrying about himself. I am not a non-serious candidate but he is a non-serious lawyer and candidate who did not know he can be disqualified for buying a house if it exceeds his poll expense limit,” Amarinder said.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president OP Soni, who had lost to sitting BJP MP Navjot Sidhu in 2009 and is now managing Amarinder’s campaign, said they (AkaliBJP) were working overtime as they were fearing a defeat.
On Amarinder’s two-day trip outside the constituency, Soni said the former was needed in other seats also for campaigning and he would be doing so. “This itself shows there is no anxiety in the Congress about the poll outcome while Jaitley’s contest has confined the Akali-BJP top brass to Amritsar,” he said.
But the Punjab BJP chief dismisses any anxiety related to the seat. “Amritsar is an important seat, but we are not tied down to it. Since the past four days, I have been campaigning in SAD’s 10 seats in Punjab. It is Amarinder who is anxious to save at least one seat for the family,” said Sharma.