The Congress is also planning to launch a door-to-door campaign to reach out to the voters
Placating dissidents within the party
After ensuring election victories for Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, out designing a poll strategy for the Congress in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh is proving to be Prashant Kishor's toughest assignment.
In Punjab, which goes to polls early next year, Kishor is burdened with the enormous task of ensuring victory for the Congress. The party was swept out of power in the state a decade ago. And Kishor is slowly coming to terms with the Congress culture of infighting and internal factions.
Replicating his well-tested campaign templates, Kishor has introduced forms of campaign that were unheard of in Punjab earlier, including investing in targeting the youth on the internet and social media.
The most prominent programme is called 'Coffee with Captain'. It aims to bring Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh among the youth over a cup of coffee. Youngsters are encouraged to ask questions. And it works especially for Amarinder, who never evades a question and has a reputation of tiring out those who question him.
Another initiative that has caught the fancy of internet-savvy Punjabis is the Facebook page named 'Punjab da Captain', which has been getting a reasonably good response. The initiative also had its share of criticism for reportedly offering shopping coupons to those answering a quiz on Amarinder.
Kishor is an expert at personality centric campaigns and his strategy revolves around presenting that person as the solution to all the problems of the electorate. This has worked in case of Modi and Kumar. And Kishor is using the same strategy for the Congress in Punjab by projecting Amarinder Singh as the panacea to Punjab's problems.
But there are many who feel that the campaigns such as 'Coffee with Captain' are nothing but a replica of 'Chai pe Charcha' campaign that Kishor had devised for Modi ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. They point out that Kishor must come up with more innovative ideas instead of replicating the old ones.
Kishor is also getting a first hand experience of the Congress culture. He has been witnessing Amarinder's interactions with local-level Congress leaders, which often end in complete pandemonium. He reportedly left one of the meetings midway in Majha area of the state.
"The Congress meetings are nothing but an opportunity for local leaders and ticket aspirants to show their strength. This often leads to unruly scenes at the local levels," said Ujagar Singh, a political commentator from Patiala.
He was also skeptical about programmes such as Coffee with Captain: "They are trying to target the youth that has been drawn towards AAP. The programme is good for publicity but what remains to be seen is whether it can get the Congress the votes. In any case what was the point of having one of the programmes at Chandigarh that does not vote in Punjab polls. I feel that it is the ticket distribution that will matter the most both for the Congress as well as AAP," said.
Devinder had accused Amarinder of being incommunicado and said that the party was in a state of disarray.
"Unfortunately, the signal has gone out, across the spectrum, as if the Congress now lacks vision, talent, unity and strength... I am of the firm view that though the situation is abysmal, it is not yet beyond redemption. If addressed correctly, the Congress could still be salvaged and geared up to take on the other two stakeholders in Punjab. Destiny would never forgive us if we are unable to liberate Punjab from the Machiavellian manipulations of the present political dispensation. It's a warning bell and wake-up call of 'the time' for the providence of the Congress party," Devinder wrote.
Observers say Kishor will face such situations at more frequently as the state inches towards the polls. There is also heartburn brewing amongst those who used to manage Amarinder's before Kishor was called in.
Kishor's campaigns have also come under attack from the SAD. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said that only Congress, which has been rejected twice by masses in Punjab, needs such strategies.
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