Shiromani Akali dal (Amritsar) SAD (A) leader Simranjit Singh Mann sprang a surprise by winning Sangrur parliamentary by-election. The victory is not only significant for the fact that the SAD (A) leader stumped Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its political stronghold but also for the way he launched and managed a high-pitched campaign and gathered momentum in his favour within a short time in the backdrop of the assembly elections just three months back that gave the AAP a thumping majority.
The battleground for Simranjit Singh Mann which won him the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat was prepared by his maternal grandson, 24-year-old Govind Singh Sandhu, a Delhi University history graduate. Although Sandhu credits his grandfather’s win to organisational support and a well-designed social media strategy, he put his blood and sweat into this victory by leading the campaign from the front.
In a candid interaction with The Statesman, Sandhu elaborated on his campaign management and future plans. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Was it your first time as an election campaign manager?
No, this was not the first time! I had earlier been part of the team that planned the campaign for the Amargarh constituency in the Vidhan Sabha polls in 2022. In that election, we lost by a small margin despite putting up a strong fight.
At such a young age, what motivated you to become a political strategist?
It was natural. I guess I got it from the family. My grandfather has very strong ties with the people of the constituency. I grew up watching him raise his voice for his people. I have always been motivated to work for the people and I wanted to play an active part, maybe that’s how it began.
How did you plan the campaign?
We already had the mapping of the constituency as Mr. Mann has always been active in the area. He has always been a ‘people’s person. The Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency comprises nine Vidhan Sabha sub-constituencies. We had limited time to plan the campaign as the election was declared at a short notice. We hardly had time to cover such a vast area.
We had to travel across 700+ villages, three large cities, namely Sangrur, Barnala, and Malerkotla, apart from several smaller towns. We set a very strong voter outreach programme in place. This enabled our party men to explain our narrative to every household, both in villages and cities.
This narrative was based on various socio-economic issues faced by the people of Punjab and had remained unaddressed by all political outfits over a long period of time. The inexperience and incompetence of the current state regime helped boost our narrative on the ground, enabling quick mobilisation and expansion of our cadre at the grassroots level.
Along with the door-to-door campaign, we ran a rather successful campaign across various social media platforms. WhatsApp and Instagram broadcasting drew great responses from the younger generation.
How was it different from the one being planned by the party in the previous elections?
This campaign had numerous challenges. Firstly, our party workers have spent their lives fighting oppression, and injustice. So, it was time to make them recollect their plight. Our entire party worked together as a team. Earlier, our party had never organised itself politically. It had witnessed multiple defeats and there was a widespread perception of radical extremism associated with the party.
We focused on the positives. We have a ‘clean’ image, with no cases of corruption or political misconduct. The party members are driven by a strong core ideology. We channelised the strengths rather than focusing on the negatives.
Another advantage that worked in our favour is that the competing leaders did not have the confidence of the people. They have time and again shifted from their stance. They have made politics their profession, while Mr. Mann is a ‘movement’ within himself.
What do you think became a game-changer?
People of Punjab are fed up with the national parties. They have had enough with these parties. They believe regional parties will take their issues forward.
What are your future plans?
The next aim is the SGPC elections in 2024. We want to free the elite management committee of the Sikhs from the clutches of the corrupt. We are organising our resources for that.
Would you be willing to help strategise campaigns of other political parties as well in the future? What factors played in the success of this election?
It is a long haul. I need to access a lot of information for that. Punjab has been widely exploited and has faced financial crunch. There is a huge debt burden on the state and there is widespread socio-economic instability. GenNext is very proud of its identity. We just have to fix a stance for them and align the thought process of our people.