In Punjab CM’s bastion Sangrur, ‘outsider’ Sukhpal Khaira poses tough challenge to Meet Hayer : The Tribune India

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In Punjab CM’s bastion Sangrur, ‘outsider’ Sukhpal Khaira poses tough challenge to Meet Hayer

In Punjab CM’s bastion Sangrur, ‘outsider’ Sukhpal Khaira poses tough challenge to Meet Hayer


Tribune News Service

Sanjeev Singh Bariana

Chandigarh, May 20

Punjab’s Sangrur is turning out to be one of the most keenly contested parliamentary constituencies, with Congress nominee Sukhpal Singh Khaira challenging the might of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his confidant Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, the AAP candidate, on their home turf.

Mann represents Dhuri Assembly seat while his Cabinet minister Hayer is an MLA from Barnala, both segments part of the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency. Khaira, on the other hand, is an MLA from Bholath in Kapurthala, a district situated geographically at quite a distance from Sangrur.

Khaira, who was jailed for four months last year while facing trial in a 2015 drugs case, had accused Mann of unleashing vendetta to settle old scores. The friends-turned-foes were among the founding members of AAP in Punjab. Khaira had won on the AAP ticket from Bholath in 2017 while Mann represented Sangrur in Parliament in 2014 and 2019.

“Chief Minister Mann has become the new ‘Maharaja of Punjab’. His party is no longer the Aam Aadmi Party, but the ‘Khas Aadmi Party’. Voters have learnt this reality the hard way and they will punish him for his deeds,” says Khaira, in a scathing attack on his betenoire. Known for speaking his mind, Khaira says he chose to contest from Mann’s turf to “teach him a lesson”. “The Chief Minister won’t have anywhere to hide when he loses Sangrur,” says Khaira (59), who was among the Punjab Congress leaders opposed to a poll truck with AAP in the state.

The Congress candidate minces no words in criticising the AAP government for making “tall claims on development, but having nothing to show on ground”. “Can the CM deny Sangrur is the cancer capital of Punjab? What happened to the medical colleges that he announced for Malerkotla and Sangrur? Why is the Dhuri sugar mill closed?” Khaira reiterates at gathering after gathering that he addresses.

Hayer, a Sports Minister in the Punjab Government, counters Khaira as a “petty leader involved in illegal activities, including drug trade”. “For Khaira, politics is only a means to make money. Our party AAP, on the other hand, is working tirelessly to restore Punjab’s lost glory,” says the 35-year-old minister.

Hayer says AAP is only showcasing the “good work” done by the Mann government in its two-year-rule. “Free and regular power, both in urban and rural belts; hi-tech education system and robust health infrastructure… the list is long. We ensured water to farmers from the canals that were running almost dry. The youth are getting jobs. Fifty-six youngsters from one village alone in my constituency Barnala have secured government employment,” asserts the young AAP leader.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann, who is the sitting MP from Sangrur, is in the contest too. Simranjit had won the 2022 Lok Sabha bypoll that was necessitated after Bhagwant Mann was elected an MLA and became the CM. Known for his pro-Khalistan stance, Simranjit is concentrating on his personal connect with voters, particularly in rural belts. Wary of Simranjit’s rural “influence”, Khaira too had last year urged “Bhagwant Mann not to charge jailed pro-Khalistan activist Amritpal Singh under draconian laws like the UAPA or the NSA as there was no terror activity involved”.

Targeting Khaira and Simranjit, Hayer says both his rivals are “concentrating on the Sikh vote bank while AAP is approaching everyone, including Hindus”. Whether the Panthic agenda works or people go for the Mann government’s progress plank, the voters will make their stance known on June 1 — the polling day.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Bhagwant Mann #Congress #Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer #Sangrur #Sukhpal Khaira


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