The Congress is rushing reinforcements from the national capital to Punjab’s Malwa to check the surge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in a region crucial to any party seeking to form the state’s next government.
The move comes in the wake of its internal assessment that the AAP is doing “extremely well” in the region and “ripple effects” might be felt in Majha and Doaba areas when the state votes for a new assembly on February 4.
“Our main focus is on Malwa now. We are going to warn the people of Punjab about the consequences of electing an AAP government and tell them how Arvind Kejriwal has failed the people of Delhi after a thumping victory in the 2015 elections,” a Congress leader said.
The assessment by All India Congress Committee (AICC) observers suggest that the AAP is leading in 40-45 seats in Malwa, but trailing in Majha and Doaba. However, if the Malwa surge continues there are chances that Delhi chief minister Kejriwal’s party could form the next government in Punjab.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief and Punjab deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, too had conceded that the AAP is posing a considerable challenge in Malwa.
“The fight is not triangular in the entire state. There is no presence of AAP in Majha, not even in Doaba. In Malwa, they are in the reckoning on around 20-21 seats. But there is no point in voting for the party as it cannot form a government with these limited seats,” he said.
Malwa sends 69 members to the 117-strong assembly, making it crucial for any party to do well in the region if it hopes to gain power in the state. Equally important are Majha and Doaba regions, which have 25 seats and 23 assembly constituencies.
Majha covers an area between Beas and Ravi rivers and comprises Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Tarn Taran districts. The area between Sutlej and Beas is Doaba and includes Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar) and parts of Ropar district.
The region towards the left bank of the Sutlej is called Malwa. It comprises of Firozpur, Faridkot, Muktsar, Barnala, Bathinda, Mansa, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mohali and parts of Ropar district.
As part of its strategy to counter the AAP, the Congress is now deputing party workers and leaders from New Delhi to Malwa to undertake door-to-door campaigns in the next few days and “highlight the failure” of the AAP government in the Capital.
The Congress has identified 15-20 constituencies where it is in a neck-and-neck fight with the AAP, which is making its Punjab assembly polls debut.
A last-minute push could change fortunes of the Congress that is desperately seeking to regain power from the Akali-BJP combine after 10 years.