Election fever in Punjab is at its highest, with high-decibel electioneering on in the state. While on one hand, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in the Akali Dal assembly stronghold of Majitha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Modi, flanked by the state's chief minister, pulled another show in Jalandhar.
The political rivals took potshots at each other while rooting for the state leadership in the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
Eyeing a third consecutive term in Punjab, BJP and SAD are leaving no stones unturned and to this effect was the Prime Minister's Jalandhar rally was replete with catchy slogans and promises of a better Punjab
Modi, a known crowd-puller, was roped in to throw his wight behind the Badals who are battling an apparent wave of anti-incumbency. Starting the rally in his signature style, Modi urged the people to chant 'Bharat Mata ki jai,' Modi went hard on the Congress.
Dubbing the grand old party as a "sinking ship" and "history", Modi called upon the voters not to vote for Congress in the coming assembly elections.
"The Congress is a sinking ship. The Congress is history. It is on its last breath," Modi said addressing the joint election amid a massive cheering crowd.
"The country has seen the politics of destruction for 70 years and the youths of this country are suffering due to it. If you want to do politics, do politics of development," Modi said while challenging the opposition parties to change the political discourse in the country.
Continuing his broadside against Congress, he said the party is "like water and changes it shape to suit its political needs". Modi invoked the Congerss party's past of sketchy alliances with other parties, while comparing it to Parkash Singh Badal's long political career.
"The Congress is a strange party. It has no principles or rules. To survive politically, the Congress, which joined hands with the Communists in West Bengal earlier after opposing them for decades, has now joined hands with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. It saw an opportunity after a feud in SP so it went ahead to butt in their and reap political benefits," Modi said.
"On the other hand, look at Badal sahab. He has been in public life for so long, but neither his heart changed nor his alliances," Modi added.
Talking about his fight against corruption, Modi said people who had accumulated black money in the last 70 years were affected by (demonetisation) action initiated by his government against the corrupt.
Touting demonetisation as a battle against corruption, Modi took every effort to woo voters on the plank of corruption free governance.
Without directly naming Congress, he said that some people were under acute stress as their 70-years' of corrupt earnings were under a threat.
"Teen mahine kya kya zulm hue hain mujh par kyunki mai bhrashtachar ki ladai lad raha hoon lekin Modi hai, zulm ke saamne nahi jhukta (In these three months (post-demonetisation) I was targeted and victimised a lot of times just because I fight against corruption. But Modi doesn't bow down in face of atrocities)," he said.
He also referred to the politically sensitive issue of Sutlej Yamuna Canal and said Punjab has the right to use water for irrigation.
Modi said waters from Indus river which flow into Pakistan as waste will be brought to Punjab. Haryana and Punjab are locked in a bitter legal and emotional battle over the issue for the past several years.
Modi also tried to subdue the anti-drug narrative, which is being played up by the Congress. With Rahul Gandhi raking up the issue of drug menace in the state at a rally in Majitha, Modi hit back at him, saying, "Some people are taking politics to a new low by tarnishing the image of the youth of Punjab."
Punjab, according to various reports, is reeling under the menace of drugs, and the Congress has blamed the Akalis for nurturing the illegal trade.
He dubbed the opposition's efforts to highlight the drug issue as an attempt to mar the state's reputation, while urging the people to beware of people doing it.
"Punish them (those defaming Punjab) in such a way that no one can point a finger at Punjab. This election is an opportunity to reject those trying to defame Punjab," Modi said.
Taking a dig at the Congress, the Prime Minister said the Congress was readying itself to return to power in Punjab five years ago also but the voters of Punjab decided otherwise and instead brought Badal back as the Chief Minister.
"The Congress is frustrated while sitting out of power. The Congress has no colour, shape or path," he said.
He ended his address amid loud cheers of "Modi" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai," from the crowd that swayed with the Prime Minister's catchy slogans and clapped at the right places.
However, it would well be a mistake on the part of the BJP, or any other political party, to be swept away by the crowd that it manages to pull at a rally. In the past too, it has been seen that crowd pulled at star campaigner's rallies often do not translate into votes.
The SAD and Bharatiya Janata Party have been running an alliance government in Punjab since 2007 and it will have a hard time defending itself against the anti-incumbency rhetoric being fanned by the opposition parties.
If a survey conducted by the Axis-My-India for India Today group, is to be believed, Punjab might be the only state where the Congress stands a chance to win. The opinion poll, as reported n News-18, predicts that 2017 assembly elections could fetch a debacle of SAD-BJP alliance, while Aam Aadmi Party that is contesting polls in the state for the first time will stand second. The BJP-SAD combine got a meagerly share of 17 to 21 seats as per the opinion poll. Whether, or not, the Prime Minister is able to convert the crowd at his rallies into votes, remains to be seen.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 27, 2017 18:27 PM