She was a front runner for the top post in the Punjab Congress till a defiant Captain Amarinder Singh settled for nothing less than captaincy of the state unit. The appointment of Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni as party’s campaign committee head came along with that of Captain as state chief. As Amarinder is steering the Congress campaign his way, Soni, in an interview to HT, says he is the face of the campaign and her job entails everything, be it candidates, publicity or manifesto, to build up a cohesive campaign.
Q: The Congress announced its campaign committee for Punjab a year ahead of the assembly polls. Will the committee be able to sustain the campaign till 2017?
A. The post of campaign committee chief was first offered to Captain Amarinder Singh. Since he was appointed as the Punjab Congress president, the campaign committee too was announced alongside. There are stages in every campaign. It has to be built up gradually and sustained so that it does not lose steam half way through. The committee is involved with the A-to-Z of elections and we have set up groups for everything right from publicity, social media to manifesto to build up a close-knit campaign.
Q: But it is Amarinder who is seen to be steering the poll campaign and yours seems to be a decorated post. What do you have to say?
Amarinder is the face of the campaign. But the post of campaign committee chief is not a decorated one. We are working together on every aspect, be it revving up cadres, holding big rallies during religious melas or personal interactions with youth. We are trying to figure out areas of our strengths and weaknesses. There is credibility in everything Amarinder says, be it on drug eradication or jobs for youth. A couple of leaders are accompanying Amarinder whenever he visits their area. The campaign involves day-to-day work and since I have responsibility of three states as general secretary in-charge, I have requested party president Sonia Gandhi to relieve me of at least Uttarakhand as it goes to polls at the same time as Punjab.
Q: Amarinder was accused of taking the decision of boycotting Khadoor Sahib bypoll unilaterally by some senior leaders. Were you in the loop?
I was in the loop from the very beginning. He first discussed the idea of boycotting it with me, former Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and state in-charge Shakeel Ahmad at Qadian when we had assembled there after paying our respects to Pathankot martyrs. It is not possible for the state Congress chief to call up senior leaders every time. We have to devise ways and means to ensure most things work out democratically. I had called up senior leader Jagmeet Brar following news of his meeting AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and he said he had just met him at a social function.
Q: Now that poll wizard Prashant Kishor has been roped in to manage the Congress campaign, what would be the role of your committee?
It is good to see young people like Prashant who are so confident of what they are doing and how they want to do it. He had visited Punjab and met Amarinder to assess the ground situation. I had a long meeting with him after his return from Chandigarh on how he can help us in the campaign. He will assist us in our social media plan, publicity and other aspects of the campaign. It will all be done in coordination and as a team.