New Delhi: The Congress is taking a leaf out of the AAP’s book in Punjab for its electoral campaign for the Punjab Assembly polls 2017. It has embarked on a massive mass contact campaign programme to connect to the voters, especially the youth. A similar approach had ensured an unprecedented victory for the AAP in the Delhi assembly election in 2015.
The Youth Congress has launched its Kuch Suniye, Kuch Sunaiye, Punjab Ko Bachaye campaign under which a young team of around 200 workers is doing interactive sessions with people in different constituencies of the poll-bound state. The team is listening to the complaints and suggestions of general voters besides giving a patient hearing to cadres who had parted ways with the party during the anti-corruption crusade of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal in 2011.
“The suggestions gathered will be submitted to the AICC (All India Congress Committee), which will give a thought to it and incorporate the important concerns while preparing its manifesto,” Youth Congress spokesman Amrish Ranjan Pandey told Firstpost giving details of the campaign which will be launched in other poll-bond states as well.
“The programme is part of our strategy to reconnect with the youth. It will go on for two-three months and our target is to cover all 117 assembly segments of the state. So far we are getting good response,” he said.
Asked the main issues that have come to the fore from the discussions so far, Pandey said, “Drug addiction is one of the major issues in Punjab. Apart from traditional drugs like smack and opium, pharmaceutical drugs are causing havoc in the state. Synthetic drugs are being sold through medical shops that have mushroomed over the years and have been operating even without a licence. The situation has turned so grave and pathetic that thousands of people turn up in our meetings on a single call. They are looking at the Congress with hope. We do not want to talk of religion or votes, which seem to put people off, especially the youngsters. Other concerns that have been raised by people include fair compensation to farmers, justice to Dalits, corruption and desecration of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib.”
He admitted to trust deficit between the people and the party and said the campaign was aimed at bridging that. “We want to change the perception. This is a new revolution and we do not want to earn discredit by doing anything half-hearted. We will extensively campaign in Punjab and other poll-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. We are hopeful that it will yield results,” Pandey said.
Asked have they fallen short of new ideas and why are they following the AAP that had gone to people before coming up with their manifesto, the Youth Congress leader said they do not follow anyone. “Youth Congress is the only youth organisation in the world to have over 1.3 crore members. We have always reached out to our voters and cadres,” he claimed.
Asked who he considers is the Congress’ nearest rival in the state, Pandey said, “We do not underestimate our other political opponents, but we have direct fight with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)–Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition. They are already discredited.”
On AAP’s chances Pandey said: “Punjab is not Delhi. The AAP has no leadership there. Of its four MPs there, two (Dramvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa) have parted ways. There is an infighting between MP Bhagwant Mann, state convenor SC Chhotepur, lawyer HS Phoolka for chef ministerial post. They do not have any credible face to declare as CM candidate.”
The entire campaign is being led by Youth Congress President Amrinder Singh Raja Brar who attends all meetings and responds to the queries and complaints raised by the participants. Brar is also a legislator from south-western Punjab's Giddarbaha constituency.