Punjab will see a clash of political titans on Friday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal set to address rallies in different parts of the state.
Modi will address a public event in support of the Akali-BJP combine at Jalandhar this afternoon, and another at Kotkapura in Malwa on January 29. Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Narendra Tomar and Avinash Rai Khanna are also expected to campaign for the combine.
The state will go to the polls on February 4, and the results will be declared over a month later — on March 11. Election campaigning will conclude on February 2.
The BJP’s Punjab manifesto focuses on the speedy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, besides physical infrastructure, poverty elimination, education and health care. The party has also promised free education till the PhD level for girls hailing from economically weaker sections, besides jobs for every family.
Gandhi is also expected to arrive in Punjab the same day to embark on a three-day electioneering tour of the state. The campaign, aimed at launching a mega-offensive against the ruling Badal family, will see him addressing rallies at Rampura Phul, Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda Urban and Majthia on the first day.
The highlight of Gandhi’s tour will be joint public rallies with state Congress head Captain Amarinder Singh and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu at Majthia, Jalalabad and Lambi.
While Amarinder is taking on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Lambi, Jalalabad is the constituency from where deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is contesting. Majthia is the battleground for Bikram Singh Majithia, a close associate of the Badals.
Not to be outdone, Kejriwal — who has been the face of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Punjab polls so far — will helm a road show at Patiala on the same day as Modi and Gandhi. Patiala is the bastion of Captain Amarinder Singh.
AAP, expected to be the dark horse in the three-way electoral contest, enjoys the support of many voters disillusioned with the ruling Akali government’s style of administration. The party has adopted many unique measures, including the use of NRI supporters, to garner support among the masses.
In its manifesto, AAP has promised to eliminate graft in Punjab — turning it into India’s first “corruption-free” state. It has also vowed to wean its youth from drugs, something that the party accuses the ruling Akali Dal of proliferating.
Many central and state ministers are also expected to hold rallies across Punjab in the coming days.
While Union textile minister Smriti Irani will campaign for the ruling combine in Amritsar (central), Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son — deputy CM Sukhbir — are slated to address four dozen public events in the next eight days.
(With agency inputs)