Punjab poll Jitters
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 2
Worried over the party’s electoral prospects in Punjab, both the Central Congress leadership and the state bosses are in agreement that if they are to beat anti-incumbency, they should jettison losing and non-performing legislators.
“We are not saying there should be change for the sake of change but winnability must be the sole criterion in ticket distribution,” remarked a senior Congress leader, adding that the effort will be to replace losing candidates with young and dynamic persons with a clean image. Congress insiders point to the last Rajasthan Assembly elections when the party paid a heavy price for not changing unpopular candidates although pre-poll assessments had suggested so.
AICC sources maintained that this view had emerged from the ongoing assessment being undertaken by the state leadership about the performance of the candidates, the issues likely to dominate the coming polls and the party’s overall performance.
There is general agreement that the Congress faces an uphill task in Punjab where it had cruised to a comfortable victory in the last assembly polls, winning 65 of the
117 seats. There is a certain amount of disenchantment with the Amarinder Singh regime and though the state government has been concentrating on development
work, the Akalis have mounted a concerted campaign against the Congress. Although Akalis managed to win 42 seats in the last polls, they had managed to retain their support base among the Sikh peasantry.
Congress strategists are yet to focus on the Punjab polls, which is expected to be held next February. The state unit has already launched its mass contact programmes in an effort to propagate the government’s achievements. The general assessment is that since the Congress had peaked in the Majha and Doaba regions in the last polls, the party should concentrate its energies on the Malwa region in an attempt to dent the traditional stronghold of the Akalis.
“The party is determined to launch an effective, intelligent and focussed campaign,” said Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State for Industry.