Low pro­file, high ex­pec­ta­tions

TOUGH FIGHT AHEAD The first-time MP is bank­ing on de­vel­op­ment works car­ried out from the MPLAD funds in the con­stituency; says mem­bers of break­away group will fade out grad­u­ally

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Htpunjab - Prab­hjit Singh prab­[email protected] n

FARIDKOT: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been rocked in Pun­jab by fre­quent up­heavals in the past five years, but there was one leader who re­mained to­tally aloof.

Pro­fes­sor Sadhu Singh main­tained an un­canny si­lence. He is ex­actly the same in his con­stituency as well — nei­ther seen, nor heard much. The first­time MP, who is not ar­tic­u­late, has re­mained low-key through­out. His of­fice in a rented ac­com­mo­da­tion on the out­skirts of the city has never been crowded, mak­ing peo­ple of­ten won­der about the elec­toral prospects of Sadhu Singh — whose as­tound­ing vic­tory in 2014 was at­trib­uted to pop­u­lar sup­port for the AAP — in the forth­com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tions.

He is bank­ing on the de­vel­op­ment works car­ried out with trans­parency from funds re­ceived un­der the MP Lo­cal Area De­vel­op­ment (MPLAD) Scheme this time. “I am the only MP in Pun­jab who has achieved the tar­get of al­lo­cat­ing the en­tire sum of ₹25 crore sanc­tioned in five years un­der the scheme,” said the AAP MP, call­ing it his “trump card”.

CLEAN IM­AGE HIS STRENGTH

Sadhu Singh, who taught at Bri­jin­dra Col­lege and then served as prin­ci­pal of KK Mar­waha Col­lege, has the im­age of a clean politi­cian. A staunch Marx­ist, he was vo­cal against the Khalistan ide­o­logues dur­ing the mil­i­tancy pe­riod in the state, but his com­plete si­lence on is­sues raised by the dis­grun­tled party lead­ers has been termed as “lack of spine” by his crit­ics.

The Faridkot MP, who has re­mained loyal to the party’s cen­tral lead­er­ship, dis­misses mem­bers of the break­away group as peo­ple who would not achieve any­thing and grad­u­ally fade out. “(Pa­tiala MP Dharamvira) Gandhi is a good man, but those who leave the party do not go a long way,” his said about his friend who was sus­pended by the AAP three years ago for “anti-party ac­tiv­i­ties”.

IN­FIGHT­ING RE­MAINS A CHAL­LENGE

The in­ter­nal bick­er­ing, which has led to re­bel­lion by seven of the 20 party leg­is­la­tors in the state, has played out in his par­lia­men­tary con­stituency as well. Jaitu MLA Baldev Singh was among the three AAP leg­is­la­tors in his Lok Sabha con­stituency, but he re­volted against the party lead­er­ship and has re­signed to join a new out­fit, Pun­jabi Ekta Party (PEP), floated an­other rebel MLA Sukh­pal Singh Khaira.

The dis­si­dents are also cre­at­ing prob­lems for the party in the Kotka­pura as­sem­bly con­stituency. The PEP, which is di­rectly tar­get­ing the AAP, has formed an al­liance — Pun­jab Demo­cratic Al­liance — with Lok In­saaf Party, Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal (Tak­sali) and some other out­fits. The al­liance has de­cided to field its can­di­dates and could dent Sadhu Singh, who is among the five can­di­dates named by the party, in his re-elec­tion bid.

While for­mer SAD MP Paramjit Kaur Gul­shan, who was de­feated by Sadhu Singh in 2014, has been pre­par­ing to throw her hat in the ring again, the Congress, which got pushed to the num­ber three po­si­tion, is look­ing for a strong can­di­date this time. Gul­shan said Sadhu Singh will be re­jected by the peo­ple this time be­cause his per­for­mance was “nil”.

Congress leader Jogin­der Singh called Sadhu Singh’s five-year term a fail­ure. “Dis­tribut­ing the Cen­tral grants has been the cri­te­rion to judge any MP or MLA. Peo­ple need a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who raises their is­sues,” he said.

How­ever, the AAP MP dif­fered, say­ing the break­away fac­tion would not be able to make any dent in his sup­port base in Jaitu, Kotka­pura or other as­sem­bly seg­ments of the con­stituency. “I am sure peo­ple will re­ward me for my work,” he said, bank­ing on grants given from his de­vel­op­ment fund to the mu­nic­i­pal bod­ies and health and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. He has also been in­stru­men­tal in getting a drain clean­ing ma­chine worth ₹30 lakh, the only such equip­ment in the en­tire state, for the Jaitu mu­nic­i­pal com­mit­tee. De­spite his im­age of clean and non-con­tro­ver­sial politi­cian, Sadhu Singh has been po­lit­i­cally in­ac­tive and never showed ini­tia­tive to mo­bilise masses for the party dur­ing the pan­chayat elec­tions or the war within.

Peo­ple are re­pent­ing for elect­ing Sadhu Singh be­cause he failed to per­form. They are not go­ing to re-elect him. PARAMJIT KAUR, SAD Sadhu Singh is in trou­ble this time. The AAP is frag­mented and he did not live up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions. JOGIN­DER SINGH, Congress

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