By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 19 (IANS) At a time when the poll scene is hotting up for the May 19 Lok Sabha polls in Punjab and leaders of all parties have jumped head-long into campaigning, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is playing it cool regarding his ‘Mission 13’ campaign.
Having led the Congress to power in March 2017 with a thumping majority after winning 77 seats in the 117-member Assembly, Amarinder seems confident about his and the party’s position for the Lok Sabha elections.
“We are aiming to win all the 13 Lok Sabha seats this time. We received nearly 180 applications from leaders wanting to contest on the Congress ticket,” he told IANS.
Amarinder is not only upbeat about the strength of the Congress but is also not ignorant about the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fighting this general elections in Punjab with their back to the wall.
“I don’t think anyone sees either SAD or AAP as any kind of threat. Both the parties are split down the centre, with no clear leadership in command. They are like rudderless ships, with no concrete agenda, no issues to talk about, and nothing to offer to the people of Punjab. The people rejected these parties two years ago, and in these two years the two parties have gone further downhill, with no hope of revival in the near term,” the Chief Minister added.
While SAD leaders, including five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, party President Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union Minister and Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, her brother Bikram Singh Majithia and senior leaders of the AAP have been campaigning actively for the past one month, Amarinder is yet to begin his campaign on a full scale.
Party insiders have said that the Chief Minister will launch the campaign in the next few days.
Even leaders of newly formed parties and groups like former AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who recently floated the Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) and later got six parties to form the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA), Ranjit Singh Brahmpura of the SAD (Taksali) and the Bains brothers of Lok Insaf Party, are campaigning across Punjab.
The SAD is facing a tough time with the Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing incidents and the sacrilege cases in 2015 during its tenure coming back to haunt the party. With religious affairs being a sensitive issue in Punjab, Sikh hardliners too are giving a tough time to the SAD.
The AAP, which has seen an exodus of senior leaders and party cadres in the past over two years, is still grappling with keeping its flock together.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the SAD and AAP won four Lok Sabha seats each in Punjab. The Congress got only three seats. The SAD’s alliance partner BJP won two seats.
Amarinder had pulled off a political coup in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when he defeated BJP heavyweight candidate and now Finance Minister Arun Jaitley from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by over one lakh votes at a time when the BJP was riding high on the Narendra Modi wave.