Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has already begun crafting the Congress comeback in the Assembly elections slated next year. But, so has another challenger, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal. And the Captain may have reason to worry, for the AAP has an unfair advantage over him. It lacks candidates in the state and has been known to give tickets to journalists. So, a plethora of application forms are being sent to Kejriwal via articles in the regional media that target the Congress and the Akalis. But, as a Congress leader points out, it is Captain Amarinder who is being seen as Kejriwal’s main threat and so his rallies are underplayed by those journalists who are hopeful of an AAP ticket. The Congress leader cites an instance where the Captain recently addressed a university function that had a packed audience. But just when the entire front row got up to meet the Captain on stage, a local scribe clicked the pictures of the empty seats for his paper (which is an influential daily in the state). Now the Captain has his team posting pictures that show the packed audiences on social media. Clearly, the battle for Punjab has begun even though elections are a while away.
Needed: A CM FACE
Who will be AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in Punjab? According to AAP sources, Arvind Kejriwal will announce the party’s CM candidate in the middle of this year. The jury is still out as to who this will be. The names that are doing the rounds are Bhagwat Mann, H.S. Phoolka and even Gul Panag who was defeated by the BJP’s Kirron Kher in the last Lok Sabha elections. But former CM Amarinder Singh had another take. He believes that Kejriwal himself is the dark horse. Speaking to the media, he pointed out that the Delhi CM would happily exchange Delhi for Punjab for he wants to be CM of a full state (Delhi doesn’t have full statehood). But, as the Captain was quick to add, “What’ll happen to Kejriwal in his home state Haryana?” The bitter dispute between Punjab and Haryana over the Ravi and Beas water rights is well known. Clearly, that’s going to be a tricky tightrope for the Delhi CM whose home state is Haryana. (As he kept reminding the people of Haryana during the Lok Sabha polls, he was born in Bhiwani and studied in Hisar). Trust the Congress to play up the state card during the Punjab polls. That’s statehood trouble of another kind for the Delhi CM.
The trump card
There is still no official confirmation on whether election strategist Prashant Kishor will manage the Congress campaign in Punjab. According to sources, Kishor is quite keen to help craft Captain Amarinder’s show, but Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is also keen that Kishor takes on Uttar Pradesh as well. And that could prove to be a stumbling block, as Kishor is not keen to take on a faceless campaign with a bleak winning chance. So watch this space for more.
The Valley Freeze
The BJP is perplexed by Mehbooba Mufti’s apparent reluctance to wear her father’s crown. Earlier, they were told that she is too grief stricken to worry about realpolitik and indeed PDP leaders confirmed her breaking down in tears at party meetings. But her shifting out of the Chief Minister’s residence has painted another picture altogether — one that has a strong political undertone. Interestingly, within the PDP, following Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s demise, it is rumoured the Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s star is on the rise while that of the self-effacing banker turned politician, finance minister Haseeb Drabu, is on the wane.