Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor kept local leader out of the show, as state party president Captain Amarinder Singh made most of his direct connect with voters here on Saturday.
Credited with helping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) come to power at the Centre in 2014 and the Janata Dal (United) retain Bihar in 2015, Prashant Kishor is said to be behind the success of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The Congress has hired him to turn its fortunes in the 2017 Punjab polls after two consecutive debacles.
Saturday’s ‘Halqe Vich Captain’ programme included a ‘Lokan Da Durbar’ segment, in which the royal scion of Patiala listened to public grievances at the packed venue. Unlike the ‘Punjab Dialogue’ show of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), where long speeches follow every question, Kishor’s event had just 25 straight questions that Amarinder picked up from a box and gave short answers to, besides adding the element of offering monetary help to four people on the spot.
To some visitors, the questions appeared soft and not randomly selected. In the end, Amarinder mingled with the crowd for about an hour until the marriage palace was empty. “We are glad to see the Punjab Congress president in a new avatar. The impressive, downto-earth interaction is a good reply to those who accuses him of being a high-flying Maharaja and say the Congress has died in the state,” said Satwinder Singh, a participant from Jatpur village.
Less drinking water and too many wild animals were main local issues that came up. Kishor’s Indian Political Affairs Committee (I-PAC) volunteers, most of them from outside Punjab, managed the stage, limiting the role of local party leaders to just fetching crowd.
After this, Amarinder sat with the media, and even then, the I-PAC team kept senior leaders away from him.