M A I N   N E W S

Road that cuts through Punjab’s political saga
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 23
At first sight the narrow Nakodar-Goraya road that winds by at a short distance from here appears nondescript, though surprisingly one is hard pressed to find any potholes.

Milestones indicating villages like Shankar, Sharih, Jandiala and Bundala dot the road at regular intervals, the names recalling the rich political legacy of the area. Some of these villages produced people who went on to become eminent political figures in the country.

Shankar is the village of the late Swaran Singh, who was India’s External Affairs Minister for several years and also held several other cabinet portfolios, including defence and industry. He was a master in the art of diplomacy and negotiation at international forums such as the UN. He died as a member of the Congress party, though his father, the late Partap Singh, was an Akali who was SGPC president in the 1930s.

Joginder Pal Pandey, who was Punjab Health Minister for several years, hailed from Shankar village. After his death his son, Rakesh, is now a Congress party legislator in the state assembly and a senior leader of the party. The Pandey family left the village many years ago and settled in Ludhiana.

The late Balbir Singh, who was state Health Minister in the 1970s, also came from Shankar village. He was a close relative of Swaran Singh. Darshan Singh, former MLA and ex-chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board, is also from this village as is Harinder Takhar, who emigrated to Ontario in Canada and was active in politics there.

Gurjit Singh, a resident of the village, says: “I’m proud of the noteworthy contributions to in Indian politics of some native sons of our village”. A number of institutions to perpetuate Swaran’s memory have been set up in the area.

Not very far from Shankar lies Sharih village, where the popular Punjab politicians Kuldeep Singh Wadala and Umrao Singh, who were cousins, were raised. While the latter, who died a few months ago, served as a cabinet minister, Wadala besides being an MLA held several important positions in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) besides playing a dominant role in SGPC affairs. Both began their political career as Akalis but later Umrao switched to the Congress party.

Their grandfather, Satnam Singh, became a martyr during the “Jaitu morcha” in the 1920s. Only a handful of people are aware of the fact that Umrao and current Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal were members of the SGPC executive in the mid-1950s. Gurpartap Singh, an upcoming politician from Sharih, says: “When we go through our village’s history we feel inspired”.

Next after Sharih along this road comes Jandiala, the village the late ex-Chief Minister Darbara Singh as also of eminent agricultural economist and former PAU Vice-Chancellor SS Johl.

At a short distance from Jandiala is Bundala village, home to the late CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet who dominated the national political scene for several years, especially after the 1970s.

Other villages situated along the road have given birth to several noted political personalities. Bhagat Singh Bilga, a Ghadarite who died a few weeks ago, was a native of Bilga village. Cheema is the village of the late Sarwan Singh Cheema, once a CPM legislator in the state assembly. Another village, Rurka, is the native place of Bachint Singh, once known as the “king of Rurka”, who hosted a national Akali conference there.

“This happens to be an area from where a large number of people entered the country’s freedom struggle and were later became prominent member of various political parties”, observed Wadala.



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