Planning the campaign strategy of a prime ministerial candidate of a national party or chief ministerial candidate of a regional party is one thing. Being the backroom man of a regional satrap of a national party is quite another.
Credited for scripting the victories of PM Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, poll strategist Prashant Kishor --- whose campaigns are personality-centric --- was busy paying courtesy calls to senior Congress leaders during his two-day Punjab visit. His first visit to the state in February after being brought on-board the Congress ship was a hush-hush affair. He had held closed-door meetings with Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh and his a few of his confidants.
But this time round, Kishor paid visits to residences of senior leaders such as former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Punjab Congress senior vice-president Lal Singh and Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Channi besides meeting senior MLAs Brahm Mohindra, Ajit Inder Mofar and Rakesh Pandey at the Congress Bhawan here. He listened to their suggestions and feedback on the state’s poll scenario.
Kishore’s other main task was gearing up the party to meet the Arvind Kejriwal challenge. The Aam Aadmi Party convener and Delhi CM, with his three visits to the state in as many months, has been setting the agenda for political discourse in the state while his army of volunteers is going village to village, door-to-door with his poll promises and posers for Akali-BJP government and opposition Congress.
Now also engaged by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for more politically-important Uttar Pradesh that goes to the polls along with Punjab, Kishor will be focussing his energies on mainly using party’s youth force to build the campaign against AAP.
On Friday, he held a meeting with leaders of Youth Congress and NSUI, the student wing of the party, to take on volunteers of AAP.
Amarinder has already launched a programme to enroll volunteers in each of the 117 constituencies called Jago Punjab. With his historic move of terminating water-sharing agreement under threat of being set aside by the Supreme Court --- an achievement that tops the list of party’s publicity of Amarinder’s five-year rule --- the first agenda to be taken up under Jago Punjab would be to fan out in villages and towns while Amarinder makes political capital out of undertaking a march along the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal route.
But with Congress now betting heavily on Prashant to revive its poll fortunes after two successive defeats in the state, many in the party are also debating if the poll battle should be allowed to become one between Prashant and Kejriwal, pushing the party’s face Amarinder to the backburner.
“The poll strategy of Prashant and Kejriwal are quite the same such as use of social media, volunteers and strong team for logistics and analytics and articulating counters to poll rhetoric of political opponents. So we need him to counter AAP but can we allow the party to seem incompetent of winning elections,” a senior MLA said.
Among suggestions he received from senior leaders were making Amarinder more accessible to party leaders and workers, drafting a poll manifesto that takes care of all sections, the campaign should involve all party leaders and achievements of the party in five years of Amarinder government should be publicised vis--a-vis 10 years of Akali-BJP rule.