Three-cornered contest on cards in Panthic hotbed
All eyes on PDA’s Khalra, who may surprise her opponents; Dimpa has edge since Cong has MLAs in all nine assembly seats of segment; SAD’s Jagir Kaur known for galvanising party cadres
long-time panthic stronghold, the Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha constituency (known as Tarn Taran till 2009) is all set for a three-cornered contest this time, with all eyes on Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) nominee Paramjit Kaur Khalra, who many feel may surprise her opponents.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a panthic party, has won six consecutive parliamentary elections from the segment, which has a large number of baptised Sikh voters, since 1996. On the other hand, the state’s current ruling party, Congress, has managed to romp home only once from the seat since 1977 (in 1991).
While the Congress, which has an edge over others since it has MLAs in all the nine assembly seats of the constituency, has found its best bet in former Beas MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa, SAD has pitched former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Jagir Kaur. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Manjinder Singh Sidhu is not in the reckoning, poll pundits say.
Dimpa, who did not contest the 2017 assembly polls, is running his campaign that largely revolves around what he terms as the “achievements of the Amarinder Singh-led state government” and promise of providing jobs to the youth and ₹72,000 annual assistance to the poor families as made by the Congress in its manifesto.
“The Centre runs 362 welfare schemes for various sections of the society. But irony is that the MPs you elect are not even aware about six of them. They lacked guts to raise your issues in Delhi. Elect me and I assure you that I will fight with the Centre to bring back development to my constituency ,” he tells voters at a poll meeting.
Though he is confident of his win, anti-incumbency against the state government worries Dimpa. Also, keeping in mind the trend, the electorate in Punjab tends to vote against the state’s ruling party in the Lok Sabha elections.
A ROUGH RIDE FOR ‘OUTSIDER’ JAGIR KAUR
It will not be an easy ride for the Akali Dal, which won the seat in 2014, as it is already on the backfoot over the issue of the 2015 sacrilege and police firing in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.
Moreover, its candidate Jagir Kaur is being dubbed by her rivals as an outsider since she hails from Bholath which is not part of the Khadoor Sahib segment. She is also being targeted by both the Congress and the PDA candidate for the controversies surrounding her family life.
Adding to the party’s worry is sitting MP and stalwart Ranjit Singh Brahmpura’s move to form his party SAD (Taksali) that withdrew its candidate former army chief Gen JJ Singh to support Khalra. But Kaur is a tough campaigner and known to mobilise the Akali workers. She is also trying to raise panthic issues with an equal thrust on what she terms the “failures Amarinder government” on the issues of providing jobs and mobile phones to the youth.
“The Congress demolished the Akal Takht and attacked Harmander Sahib (Golden Temple). They burnt Sikhs in 1984. If you vote for it, they will think the quaum has forgotten those brutalities,” she says addressing a rally.
KHALRA FACTOR AT PLAY IN CAMPAIGN
Punjab Ekta Party (PDA constituent) nominee Khalra, wife of human rights activist late Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was allegedly killed by Punjab Police personnel in 1995, is getting a strong support of the families whose members were killed in police encounters during the Sikh militancy. The number of such families is quite high in the belt which was a hub of militancy.
But poll managers of the Congress and SAD claim her support base is limited to certain pockets only. They even blame the media for giving her what they call “unnecessary hype”.
But the kind of support the PDA candidate is getting on the ground has both the parties anxious. Also, those voters disillusioned with both SAD and the Congress may consider giving her a chance.
“I don’t know politics. I am contesting for the pride of the quam (Sikh community). Successive governments in Delhi have dubbed Sikhs as criminals and terrorists. My husband was killed by the Punjab Police as he became the voice of Sikh families whose members were killed by police at the behest of Beant Singh (late Punjab CM) and KPS Gill (former Punjab DGP),” she says addressing supporters at Nagoke village.
Many NRIs are also supporting Khalra whose campaign which is widely being followed on social media.
Congress candidate Jasbir Singh Dimpa interacting with locals in Khadoor Sahib.
Punjab Democratic Alliance nominee Paramjit Kaur Khalra campaigning in the segment on Monday.
Akali Dal’s Jagir Kaur talking to people.