The mass contact programme launched by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Partap Singh Bajwa, in which he meets party workers at the grassroots, is apparently a well-planned strategy by his camp to make a pitch for the party to project him as the chief ministerial candidate in the assembly polls due in 2017.
While Bajwa made no secret of his ambitions, the strategy was clearly visible during the PPCC chief's programmes on Tuesday when he held at least five meetings in Jalandhar-central constituency and his confidants projected him as the "would-be CM".
At a press meet later, Bajwa replied to a question with a straight argument: "I am not a saint who doesn't have any political aspirations. If given a chance by the party, I will definitely like to head the government in Punjab. Responding to HT, He said he could not ask workers to "snub their feelings", and categorically said, "Like any other politician, I aspire to be the CM."
Earlier, at one of the worker meetings chaired by Bajwa in Sangat Singh Nagar, PPCC secretary Dr Ram Lal Jassi, a prominent Dalit face of the party, while asking the gathering to appreciate the PPCC chief's efforts to meet workers, exhorted that if Bajwa became CM all their problems would be resolved.
Most of those who were given the chance to speak at the meetings heaped praises and asked Bajwa to work for the welfare of the party workers "when you take the reins of the state government". The speeches carried veiled attacks on leaders who "ignore" workers - Bajwa's bête noire Capt Amarinder Singh is particularly seen as being distant except during elections.
"Rabb kare thaunu mauka mile agli government banaun da, te tusi workeran di puchh karo. Workeran di andekhi jiddan pichhliya sarakaran wele hoyi hai, odan nahi hona chahida… (May God give you the chance to form the government and you work for the welfare of workers. The way party workers were ignored during previous Congress governments should not be repeated," a worker named Sudesh said during his address. Similar speeches were heard in meetings at Adarsh Nagar and Saidan Gate.
In some not-so-veiled references too towards Amarinder, some praised Bajwa for being "a leader who doesn't move in choppers but, rather, is meeting workers at street level".
A senior leader from Amarinder's camp reacted: "The Bajwa camp is very sharp in arranging such staged shows. They did the same during the visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at the party office in Chandigarh. Bajwa is making a last-ditch effort to save his post after he lost credibility due to defeat in the Lok Sabha polls from Gurdaspur."