M A I N   N E W S

Capt turns people’s man
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura/Bathinda, November 11
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, dropped his royal mantle to turn a people’s man today. Seeking to dent the Akali vote bank, he stormed the Badal territory with his army of horses, camels, elephants and Congressmen. But his winning gesture was his “pro-people” strategy, especially the one he displayed at Rame Aana in the Kotkapura constituency where Akali MLA M.S. Brar rules.

Here, he halted his Vikas Yatra to solve the problem of two farmers - Gurjant and Pritpal Singh - who do not have a tubewell connection. Capt Amarinder Singh directed his OSD, Mr M.P. Singh, to issue relevant instructions to the Punjab State Electricity Board Chairman. Within moments, the long-held wish of the poor farmers was fulfilled. The Chief Minister repeated the act for a few other aggrieved.

ay, he was out to tell Malwa that he cared. At Matta, he even stopped by the house of a Dalit, had tea with him and gave him Rs 20,000. Propriety of the act apart, it had the desired impact. Soon, everyone in the area was clamouring to make the Chief Minister their guest, hoping for generous returns. At one place, the Chief Minister doled out a Rs 1,000 note to a child. At others, he had a tough time driving past those who wanted him to bless their child as well.

But he balanced his acts well. Connecting with people, he won their trust, at least for a while. Apparently he succeeded in psychologically alienating a few from their traditional electoral preferences. Just before he sanctioned the tubewell connection for cotton farmers at Rame Aana, their wives had said: “Jeda vi sanu tubewell connection dilauga, asi ohde pair pujange (We will worship the one who gets us a connection). And the Chief Minister got them one.

He thus declared a virtual war on his political rivals, who rule Malwa, where poverty still peeps out of mud houses. Anyone who has read Jnanpith award winner Gurdial Singh’s “Marhi da Diva” would be surprised to see that things have not changed much since the litterateur detailed farm labourers’ exploitation at the hands of the landed class.

Right through Guru ki Dhab in Kotkapura to Rupana in Muktsar, poverty walked along the Congress convoy. These are areas where the poor still reel under neglect and the custom of “siri” (where landlords bind the children of Dalits into lifelong labour) still flourishes. As the yatra moved along neglected houses, one found it hard to digest they were part of Punjab - a state declared the “best” in India.

Five years of Congress rule and the previous five of the Akalis have failed to ensure a safe house to Harjinder Kaur, who pleaded the Chief Minister for a “pucca” house today. She grabbed his attention at Rame Aana where the Chief Minister was in a benevolent mood. He issued orders, but the delivery was not as fast as in the case of the two cotton farmers.

Nevertheless, promises were made, not only to Harjinder Kaur but also to Vidya who wanted some monetary compensation. She has no children, no money; her husband is ailing. She was heard saying: “It would have been so good had the Chief Minister come more often.” That apart, the yatra did well today. It created ripples in the Akali heartland of Faridkot, from where Mr Sukhbir Badal is an MP, and Gidderbaha, from where SAD president Parkash Singh Badal contested seven times before vacating the seat for nephew Manpreet Badal, now an MLA here.

And though it is too early to say which side of the house the sun shines, Congressmen thought they had scored a point.




ROYAL RECEPTION: Congress minister and MLA from Bathinda Surinder Singla staged a royal reception for the Punjab Chief Minister’s Vikas Yatra as it entered Chumba, a village in the Bathinda constituency.

RS 300-CR PROJECT: The Chief Minister announced the release of Rs 100 crore of the Rs 300-crore project for the brick-lining of 2,700 km of water courses in eight districts of Punjab. These include Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Ferozepore and Sangrur in the Malwa belt. The project will prevent water seepage from unlined water courses - a rampant problem in Malwa.

80-KG GARLAND: On his entry to Mallan village in the Gidderbaha assembly segment, the Chief Minister was surprised to see an 80-kg garland being transported towards him. He was happy it was not put around his neck.

BANANA RAIN: Excited villagers of Kotkapura showered bananas on the cavalcade of the Chief Minister. Even on being asked to stop, they did not budge. Clearly, some people in the convoy were hit hard.



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