Is the chaos at ‘Coffee with Captain’ creating a positive buzz for Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh? For the poll strategists of Amarinder any news is good news.
As he fine-tunes the party’s poll strategy in Punjab, unity, Captain’s accessibility and visibility sans coterie seem to top the list of challenges for Prashant Kishor. Amarinder reaching out to the youth and fielding even their uncomfortable questions is simply the party’s poll strategy at work, never mind the negative publicity.
Though many in the party are questioning his mandate to do so, Kishor has been meeting disgruntled senior leaders to forge unity in the party. He had met both Bir Devinder Singh and Jagmeet Brar before they were expelled by the party earlier this month. But since he was not able to prevent their outbursts, Amarinder sent a clear message to his detractors--indiscipline would not be tolerated.
Kishor had also met former Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar, who was feeling short-changed by Amarinder over Rajya Sabha nominations, to make him agree to share the stage with Amarinder at the Talwandi Sabo rally to present a picture of unity. What had worried the party was an angry Jakhar getting feelers from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Though he admits to Kishor meeting him, Jakhar refuses to comment on whether he has buried the hatchet with top state and central leaders. He had openly accused party general secretary in-charge of Punjab, Shakeel Ahmad, and secretary Harish Chaudhary of sowing seeds of dissension in the party during the Rajya Sabha nominations.
To contain the damage that Bir Devinder could inflict on Amarinder and the party through his revelations on the Amritsar Improvement Trust scam, though expelled, he is learnt to have been assured that his concerns would be addressed. When questioned on his silence on Amarinder now, Bir Devinder said he is no longer in the Congress and could not say anything on the party.
“For me, the Congress chapter is over. I do not know what the party plans to do over a period of time. I am a whistle-blower and was penalised for speaking the truth. I am in touch with my supporters and will fight the elections,” he said. In case of Brar, the damage from his ouster was calculated to be of “much less risk” than letting him fire salvos at Amarinder from within the party and he has been forsaken after the expulsion.
‘AAP campaign fizzling out’
After returning from his North America tour, Amarinder will continue with his youth interactions, while also reaching out to farmers as the wheat harvesting season will be over, followed by other sections such as traders and industrialists. Though the AAP has a headway in its door-to-door campaign, the Congress strategy is not to launch its grassroots programme 10 months before election. “The AAP’s Parivar Jodo campaign, too, is fizzling out. Its workers and volunteers are no more roaming in villages as one cannot sustain such a momentum till election. The Congress will pan out in Punjab villages at the right time before election,” party sources said.
While Amarinder has to be visible, a conscious strategy is also to slowly distance him from his coterie. At rallies and interactions of Amarinder, MLAs, party leaders and aides seen usually by his side have been keeping out of frame. Instead, it is senior leaders such as Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Lal Singh, Sunil Jakhar and CLP leader Charanjit Channi who are posing as one big, happy family.