Considered to be on the back foot ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party has taken the lead in running the media campaign in Punjab for the high stakes polls, thanks to a special image makeover publicity drive launched by All India Congress Committee (AICC) throughout the country.
At the national level, the AICC has handed over this campaign to a Japan-based firm Dentsu to bring out the messages of its vice-president and campaign committee chief Rahul Gandhi by spending Rs 500 crore. This company has hired different local advertisers in Punjab to run the campaign.
Under this systematic and well-planned campaign which could be a cause for worry for the SAD-BJP alliance in future, all prime locations meant for installing hoardings have already been booked for the next three months by various media firms on behalf of the Congress.
Along national and state highways throughout the state, one can see big hoardings having Rahul Gandhi's message written in Punjabi, "Torho nahi jorho" or "Har hath shakti, har hath tarakki" along with his photo.
Sources in the AICC's media cell in Delhi revealed that in Punjab, more than 800 hoardings will be installed at the 'most sought after' advertisement positions across the state.
Around 300 such hoardings have already been put up.
Vishvadeep Dutta from Sell-Wel Advertisers, who looks after Chandigharh-Mohali-Panchkula area, disclosed that the first phase of the campaign has been completed and it will get more aggressive in the coming days.
The party is also running an aggressive campaign on the local FM radio channels and has bought the slots in advance for the next three months.
However, the SAD-BJP combine at present is having no plans for such campaigning.
"The focus of our advertisement so far is only Narendra Modi's rally scheduled to be held in Jagraon on February 23. Only after that we are going to chalk out our campaign," said Harmeet Dhillon, public relations officer of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The state BJP, meanwhile, is also looking towards its national leadership to chalk out the party's publicity campaign.
"The Congress party has collected huge amount of black money to be spent in such campaigns to save Rahul. For BJP, Modi's persona that has gripped the entire country is enough for our campaign for the time being," said Sunil Singla, state media co-ordinator for the saffron party.
For hiring a hoarding place at one of the best locations, including spots near bus stand or railway stations in big cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Mohali, Amrtisar and Bathinda, the Congress is reportedly paying between Rs 1-3 lakh per month depending upon the location.
In small cities, the monthly rent of a board for putting up a hoarding is between Rs 20,000 and Rs 1 lakh.