(Times of India, June 16, 2016: Amarinder to hold ‘Coffee with Captain’: In an attempt to reach out to farmers in Punjab ahead of next year’s polls, the Congress will organise ‘Coffee with Captain’, an outreach programme for the farming community … The strategy has been formulated by campaign strategist Prashant Kishor and his team.)
Did you think that the Congress shooting itself in the foot over the Kamal Nath fiasco and the Rajya Sabha cross-voting mess would scuttle its chances in the Punjab polls? Don’t be too sure, because the party has an ace up its sleeve — its ‘Coffee with Captain’ programme. Recall that Mr Kishor’s ‘Chai pe Charcha’ gambit had propelled Narendra Modi to prime ministership. And his ‘Laddoos with Lalu’ and neighbourhood smoking sessions labelled ‘Nicotine with Nitish’ were responsible for the Nitish-and-Lalu wins in Bihar.
However, there are dissenting voices. ‘I would prefer ”Conversations with Congress” rather than focus on Captain Amarinder Singh,’ said an anti-Amarinder voter. Someone said ‘Singing with Singh’ sounded better. Analysts point out the Congress campaign on ‘Cocktails with Kamal’ has now been discarded after Kamal Nath quit. But another guy said it hasn’t been discarded, they’re just waiting for someone with a name starting with K. Others worry Punjab’s drug addicts may feel left out. ‘For them, coffee may not be strong enough. We could call meetings with them, “Cocaine with Congress”,’ said a chap from the high command.
Besides, the opposition is not sitting idle. Finishing touches are being put to the ‘Booze with Badal’ and ‘Boogie with Badal’ campaigns. ‘Since the ‘chai pe charcha’ stunt, expectations have gone up,’ said a BJP guy, adding they were now planning a ‘chillum plus chai pe charcha’. The Aam Aadmi party has also upped its game, with a programme around Bhawant Mann, its MP from Punjab. Insiders say it is likely to be called ‘Bhang with Bhagwant’. For more active voters, there will be ‘Kabaddi with Kejriwal.’
Communications specialists say the choice of a name for these meetings could make all the difference between winning and losing. ‘While the ‘chai pe charcha’ clicked in 2014, we also had a ‘Jive with Jaitley’ plan that didn’t work. And the Congress lost in Assam because its slogan of ‘Ganja with Gogoi’ failed miserably. Don’t forget the BJP lost Delhi because its ‘Beedi with Bedi’ strategy was fatally flawed,’ said a communicator.
Nomenclature for meetings is already being sharpened for the UP polls. Rumours abound that chief minister hopeful Varun Gandhi wants a ‘Vodka with Varun’ programme. Suggestions for star campaigners like Smriti Irani include ‘Smack with Smriti’, ‘Snacks with Smriti’ and the rather lame ‘Idlis with Irani’. A ‘Hokum with Hukum’ scheme is being planned for BJP MP Hukum Singh, as is ‘Shake a leg with Sakshi Maharaj’. Mayawati has a two-pronged meeting nomenclature — ‘Milk with Maya’ for the masses and ‘Mojitos with Maya’ for the classes. ‘Munching with Mulayam’ is unlikely to be a hit. But everybody is hoping for ‘Prattle with Priyanka.’
I would love to continue this conversation, but this ‘Marijuana with Manas’ programme is making me sleepy.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed are personal