Gurdaspur Diary

This is how Vinod Khanna jumped into politics!

This is how Vinod Khanna jumped into politics!

Late former MP Vinod Khanna with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Not many remember the innumerable projects brought to the area by four-time former MP and film icon Vinod Khanna. However, there are many who remember why and how he entered the politics and rose to the position of the Minister of State for External Affairs. One such resident is Neeraj Salhotra, a former chairman of the Gurdaspur Improvement Trust. His story is corroborated by several others. Salhotra recounted that in the fall of 1997, Vinod Khanna and his wife Kavita Khanna were at the Pathankot city railway station. The couple was on their way back to New Delhi en-route to Mumbai after supervising a 40 day long shooting schedule of Khanna's production Himalay Putra. The actor was launching his younger son Akhshaye Khanna in the movie. At that time Pathankot was not on the map of India hence the Khannas were left with no choice but to travel by the Jammu mail to New Delhi. They had no ticket reservations. Khanna actually was banking on his reputation as a mega-star to get a seat for himself and his wife but he was left fuming when he failed to get a berth. Incidentally, Bhinder, too, was travelling in the same train. The railways, following protocol, had booked a coupe for her as she was entitled to one in her capacity as a union minister. Khanna asked her to adjust him and his wife in the coupe. However, the minister refused. The actor was livid and took an oath then and there, standing on the railway platform, that one day he too will become a union minister. A year later, elections were announced and Khanna was Atal Behari Vajpayee's personal choice to contest from the Gurdaspur Parliamentary constituency. He, however, wanted to contest from a seat from Mumbai. His plea was turned down and instead he was told by the powers-that-be in the BJP that since he knew how to speak Punjabi, he had to slug it out from a Punjabi-speaking seat like Gurdaspur. In July, 2002, when the actor was into his third term as an MP, he was singled out by PM Vajpayee for the post of Minister of State for Tourism. Six months later he was elevated as Minister of State for External Affairs. That is how Khanna jumped into the political arena. Had Bhinder shown some respect to one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, ‘Dayavan’ would have never got angry. Interestingly, a year later after he was snubbed by Bhinder, Khanna trounced her by 70,000 votes to make his parliamentary debut.

NHAI ignores death traps on National highway- 54

NHAI officials meet Batala residents. They demanded a probe into 42 deaths in 24 months on the 5-km stretch of road.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) dispatched a three-member high level team to 'study' the two 'black spots' on NH-54 leading from Pathankot to Amritsar via Batala. The point at which the highway branches off from the main road to Batala has seen as many as 22 deaths in the last two years. The other 'black spot' is 5 km away at a point from where commuters travelling from Batala to Amritsar can take the highway. This spot has witnessed 20 accidental deaths in the last two years. 42 deaths in 24 months on a 5-km stretch of road definitely cries for some explanation by the NHAI officials. These figures are official in nature and have been provided by SP (Headquarters) Gurpreet Singh. The NHAI team was led by Project Director Sunil Yadav and met a delegation of residents at the site where ways and means to stop the loss of lives and limbs were discussed. This meeting has been the talking point among Batalvis. However, what is neither being discussed nor highlighted is the fact how in the first place the NHAI passed the designs of these two points. Residents say a probe should be initiated. However, NHAI is very conveniently turning down demands of a probe. Obviously, the axe may well fall on some of their own officials. Reason enough why nobody in the NHAI wants to dig deep into how and why these two ‘death spots’ came into existence in the first place.

The son rises again

Gurpartap Singh Wadala

Prayer meetings are held regularly near the Kartarpur Corridor’s Integrated Check Post (ICP). Bikram Majithia, a few months ago, had held one such meeting where he urged the Union Government to reopen the road which had been lying closed following Covid-19. He had claimed that all major religious places in the world had reopened once the virus scare had subsided. Now, many know that from June, 2000 till June, 2018, veteran SAD leader former Nakodar MLA Kuldeep Singh Wadala used to hold a prayer meeting every month at the very place where the ICP has now been established. His appeals to the almighty paid off when five months after his death, the Union Government decided to construct the passage leading to the Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan from Dera Baba Nanak. Now, his son, Gurpartap Singh Wadala, incumbent SAD legislator of Nakodar, has made plans to organise meetings at the ICP beginning from December. He says his endeavour will continue till the Modi government reopens the passage. The erudite Gurpartap quipped, “To be a Sikh and not to pray is akin to be alive without breathing. My father prayed for 18 long years. Now, I will pray till the government accedes to our requests. Ask and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you,” As they say, like father, like son. 

(Contributed by Ravi Dhaliwal)

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