People of the State disillusioned with government, says Congress

Claiming complete preparedness for the electoral battle ahead, the political parties in Punjab — especially the front runners, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress — have welcomed the Election Commission of India's announcement of polling on January 30 for the 117-member Assembly.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said: “Everything has gone as we wished. I am really happy and thrilled as if this were my first election. The political atmosphere in the State indicates that this will be the biggest victory of my career for the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance. We are set to go past even the 1997 figure.”

‘Negative campaign'

Mr. Badal said the Congress had been left with nothing to talk about and its negative campaign of mudslinging would backfire on them. “There is no place for gutter propaganda which the Congress was hoping to rely on.” He said the youth and the educated would play a crucial role in this election.

“Sooner the elections, quicker are they [Akalis] out of power,” president of the Punjab unit of the Congress Amarinder Singh said. He said the party was fully geared up and the cadre mobilised to meet the challenge.

Talking to The Hindu, Capt. Singh said the Congress, which had recently concluded its mass contact rallies, stood to gain as the people of the State were disillusioned with the “most corrupt government” since 1947.

Capt. Singh, who was in Delhi to seek directions from the high command and scrutinise the list of candidates, said he had received reports that Congress workers across Punjab celebrated the poll schedule announcement with bursting of crackers and distribution of ladoos, indicating that they had already smelt victory. “It is already a festive mood in Congress.”

The People's Party of Punjab (PPP), led by the Chief Minister's estranged nephew and former Finance Minister, Manpreet Singh Badal, said the ‘era of misconduct' of the Akali Dal-BJP government was over with the announcement of the model code of conduct.

Mr. Manpreet Singh, however, sought to warn the people to remain vigilant against the machinations of the party he revolted against almost a year ago. He said the PPP, along with other constituents of the ‘Sanjha Morcha,' which promises to provide a viable alternative, wanted the people to keep a watch on all violations of the code of conduct.

The Sanjha Morcha would constitute a special team of workers, which would collect all information regarding any attempt by the State government to bypass the model code of conduct. The information would be documented and sent to the Election Commission. “A vigilant society and an informed electorate is a basic necessity in a functional democracy, and I am sure the electorate in Punjab will not allow the Akali Dal-BJP to bypass the ECI,” he added.