New Delhi: The delay over the announcement of Captain Amarinder Singh as Punjab’s chief ministerial candidate of the Congress could take a toll on the party’s performance in the upcoming elections as well as the morale of its cadre and senior leaders who are leading the campaign. Senior party leaders from the state feel that the top leadership, which announced him as the “face of the campaign" about eight months ago, has been non-committal so far.
The battle for Punjab is crucial for Congress because a victory in the state will help the party revive its depleting electoral fortunes across north India. The party is looking to wrest power in Punjab after a decade-long gap from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
“The central leadership has to be more proactive and help Captain in his election campaign. It should not look like it is not supporting Captain fully in this election because such an impression will lead to infighting and affect the overall morale of the cadre. The delay in a formal announcement of his name will come with its own cost, the longer the delay the more are the chances of an offset," a senior party leader from Punjab said, requesting anonymity.
Party leaders in Punjab also compare the delay to a contrasting political scenario in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has already announced Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial candidate. Congress has been out of power for nearly three decades in Uttar Pradesh and its key fight is to remain politically relevant in the state.
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Interestingly, Congress’s election campaign for both the states is being handled by poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who works around the model of a presidential campaign.
Amarinder Singh, a former chief minister, has been vocal about the need to make a formal announcement soon, especially because he has already begun his campaign in the state.
“He has the right to be vocal because he has put a lot of stake in this election. He is on an extensive campaign which is going to help the party. It is more or less clear that there is no other contender. So it makes it more difficult to understand why a delay like this is happening," another party leader said, requesting anonymity.
The state goes to polls early next year. The contest is also likely, for the first time, to be a three-cornered one with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also in the fray.
“In Punjab, Congress needs to steer through factionalism, it is an internal fight in which announcement of the chief ministerial candidate will help. That Captain is steering the ship is known and so in that sense it is not clear why the delay from the top leadership is happening. It is not the only factor in the polls but it will affect the party’s chances and also Captain’s campaign in the state," said Ronki Ram, a professor of political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh.