Punjab 2017

In battle for Punjab, Malwa is where the action is

AAP leaders with a ‘Flame of Hope’ brought by NRIs from the U.K., outside the Amritsar airport on Tuesday.  

Of the 117 seats in the Punjab Assembly, 69 lie in the crucial Malwa belt of the State, districts where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) drew much of its support during 2014 general elections. In addition, all major players — Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Bhagwant Singh Mann of the AAP — are contesting seats in the region.

Last week, Capt. Amarinder Singh filed nomination papers from Lambi, Mr. Badal’s constituency, not just to respond to the AAP’s charge that the Akali Dal and the Congress were part of an old system of mutually colluding political parties, which would not take action on each other’s acts of omission and commission once elected, but also to energise the campaign for seats in Malwa.

“I filed nomination papers from Lambi as I feel our intensifying campaign there would affect the surrounding seats,” Captain Singh had told The Hindu in an interview. Strategists in the Congress concur with this view.

Gurnam Singh, a government official in Bhatinda, conveyed the confusion faced by the electorate in these polls. “My family of five have promised both the Akalis and the Congress that we will vote for them, but now we feel we should give jhaadu (the broom, the election symbol of the AAP) a chance,” he said. “We are waiting to see which Opposition side shapes up better,” he added.

The AAP is strong in the districts of Bhatinda, Faridkot, Sangrur, Mandsa and Barnala. The Congress’ strongholds have been Fazilka, Muktsar, Patiala (Captain Amarinder Singh’s other constituency), Mohali, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ludhiana. AAP’s star campaigner Bhagwant Mann is an MP from Sangrur and is challenging Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal from Jalalabad.

Data crunching

“From the beginning, we have been realistic about the challenge of Malwa and have drawn our strategy accordingly. Our aim has been to positively influence people through our campaign and we have concentrated on that. For example, we have data of over 60 lakh voters in this region alone who have positively engaged with either the Berozgaari Baththa (unemployment dole) campaign where we provided a unique number to each person who texted us for the programme, or the Captain Smart Connect programme,” said Rishi Raj Singh, a member of the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) campaign team which is associated with the Congress. “Each constituency has been divided into 12 zones, with a core member of our team to a constituency each.”

“[Delhi Chief Minister] Arvind Kejriwal was to arrive in Malwa to campaign in late November last year; we began our campaign then. Between November 20 and December 10, over 28 lakh voters in the 18-35 age group and matriculates registered with us for the scheme that promised a smartphone, with a year’s free 3G data,” he added. “We have been consistently taking the fight into the rival camp, be it these campaigns through the year, or Captain Singh fighting from Lambi,” he said.

The AAP for its part has divided the campaign into door-to-door campaigning, with the aim to cover each household in the area at least twice over. “The rallies by our star campaigners have been kept as a parallel activity with a completely different team to look into it,” said Deepak Bajpai, spokesperson for AAP.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 6:09:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/punjab-2017/In-battle-for-Punjab-Malwa-is-where-the-action-is/article17090125.ece

Next Story