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

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Election20­19 - Ravin­der Va­sudeva n ravin­der.va­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

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.

HT PHOTO

Congress can­di­date Jas­bir Singh Dimpa in­ter­act­ing with lo­cals in Khadoor Sahib.

HT PHOTO

Pun­jab Demo­cratic Al­liance nom­i­nee Paramjit Kaur Khalra cam­paign­ing in the seg­ment on Mon­day.

HT PHOTO

Akali Dal’s Ja­gir Kaur talk­ing to peo­ple.

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