The BJP may have invited prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi over for five rallies in one day, but most Congress nominees in Punjab are not relying on national leaders to boost t heir campaigns.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, party campaign committee chief Rahul Gandhi, and even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have canvassed easily in the state but sources in the Congress said the big nominees in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur and Patiala were not even keen.
Usual favourite campaigner Rahul will, so far, come to only one Punjab rally, which will be in Bathinda on April 28 in support of Manpreet Singh Badal. Sources said he was available for a rally in Gurdaspur in favour of state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa but the latter’s managers wanted a roads how, which Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Gandhi family couldn’t allow.
In Jalandhar, in spite of the availability of big leaders, the campaign manager of party candidate Santokh Singh decided against organising any rally.
“We have changed our tactics. We’ ll reach out to maximum people without bringing them to the rallies, which are a waste of time and money,” said Santokh’s son and state youth Cong ress president, Vikram Chaudhary.
Sonia was scheduled to address a rally in Hoshiapur on April 26 in favour of Mohinder Singh Kaypee and even the dates was announced to the press but now the event stands cancelled for unknown reasons. “We’re told that the SPG didn’t clear the venue,” said Kaypee aide Manoj Arora. She, however, will address a rally in Sangrur the same day. And that is the only programme, so far.
Jagmeet Brar, co-convener of the party’s campaign committee for Punjab, stated that since the names of many candidates were declared very late and organising big rallies would have wasted their time, they had decided to stick to the basic campaign. “It needs four to five days to hold a big rally for leaders of the stature of Rahulji, Soniaji and Manmohanji,” he said. Even the PM would not address a rally in Punjab, confir med Brar.
With former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh busy in own contest in Amritsar, only state party campaign committee chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has addressed a few rallies across the state.
A tight contest in Amritsar has restricted Amarinder to gatherings in Patiala and Anandpur Sahib only beyond his constituency.
“It’s not strategy, it’s fear. Because of a heavy resentment against the Gandhi family, the candidates are not taking the risk of inviting them to rallies,” said Youth Akali Dal general secretary Harpal Juneja.