The captain’s course has not been charted — if the signals emanating from the Congress are a pointer to the shape of things to come.
The Congress is sending mixed signals as the campaign enters a decisive stage with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressing two impressive election rallies at Jandiala Guru and Phagwara.
Although Sonia’s meetings were certainly better organised than those of the Prime Minister over the past two days, lack of planning and proper strategy on the part of the state leadership was evident. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, spearheading the campaign at the state-level, was made to sit in the second row with AICC office-bearers and PCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo flanked Sonia Gandhi in the front row on the dais. Amritsar Lok Sabha candidate Surinder Singla sat with the chief minister.
Amarinder Singh’s relegation, which may have been totally unintentional, was interpreted in party circles as an indication by the leadership that the question of chief ministership was wide open and will be decided after the results. Party general secretary Margaret Alva, as reported by the local media in Gurdaspur on Tuesday, and another office bearer hinted at it a few days ago. “In this election, the key to success is the division of Jat-Sikh votes and if the Jats get the feeling that Amarinder is not going to be there, they may opt for Akalis and tilt the scales heavily in their favour,” Satnam Singh Deol, a Youth Congress activist said.
Another Congress leader said the party had adequate support among the Hindus and the Dalits and the support of the Jat- Sikhs was important. For the first time, there had been a rethink on their part — and the body language seems to indicate so.
“Even if they want to change Amarinder, they should not be unnecessarily spelling out that the decision will be taken after the polls. It is best to be ambiguous.”
Sonia’s speech made some relevant points, but compared to her opening speech in the 2002 polls, it did not fire up the workers, who can help the party return to power for another term with a little bit of push and inspiration and break the 40-year jinx of the Congress not returning to power after a term in office. Congress workers said Sonia was bracing for a final assault on February 10.