The final result of the local assembly byelection may not change much in Punjab politics but the battle has proved a blessing in disguise for the Congress in general and its state president, Captain Amarinder Singh, in particular.
He has not only silenced his critics who doubted his ability to work hard but also got the party's rank and file from across the state to assemble at this not so big town of central Malwa. Successive defeats in the 2012 assembly elections and a byelection in Dasuya had demoralised the Congress workers. The Moga byelection gave them a chance to regroup and recharge.
“The party was in suspended animation virtually, with nothing happening,” said a senior party leader. “The defection of Joginder Pal Jain came as a blessing in disguise. Every Congress worker from the block to the state level, including the legislators, parliamentarians, ministers and district presidents, came over to campaign in Moga's nooks and corners.”
Amarinder also sought to dispel the notion of factionalism within the Punjab Congress. By recommending the candidature of Vijay Sathi, a proclaimed loyalist of Jagmeet Singh Brar, Amarinder played a political masterstroke. It left leaders such as Rajinder Kaur Bhattal with no choice but to join the campaign. The result: for the first time in many years, the party appeared united.
His critics, both within the party and outside, still see it has his personal battle for survival, yet they can't dispute that he led from the front and worked round-the-clock since February 2. “No other Congress leader, including Sathi, put as many hours into the campaign as Captain Amarinder Singh,” said Arvind Khanna, legislator of Dhuri and party general secretary attached with Amarinder.
The former CM has worked so hard that his detractors say that had he put so much effort into winning the assembly elections, the results would have been different. Whether or not the Congress is able to retain the Moga seat, only time will tell but Amarinder's marathon campaign here has given the Akalis a run for their money indeed. The fear of Amarinder dragged chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, parliamentarian Harsimrat Kaur Badal, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and other big Akali leaders to the battlefront, and compelled them to fortify Moga.
“Deputy CM Sukhbir was denied share in Nestle so he forced it to restrict its operations in the state,” Amarinder told reporters during his road show in Moga on Wednesday. “As the company spurned his overtures, the state government started harassing its vendors and suppliers.”
The party candidate, Vijay Sathi, senior Congress leaders Karam Singh Chauhan, and state Youth Congress president Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary were present.