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No cakewalk for three-time Akali MP Harsimrat in Bathinda

Villagers say AAP’s Khuddian more accessible than her

No cakewalk for three-time Akali MP Harsimrat in Bathinda

Voters of Bhaini Bagha village in Bathinda discuss the political scenario in the constituency. Photo: Ravi Kumar

Tribune News Service

Ruchika M Khanna

Bathinda, May 19

A group of village elders, in spite of the sweltering heat, sits under a tree at Bhaini Bagha village, cracking jokes and discussing mundane things.

Ask them about the political situation in the constituency and almost all 15 of them reply in unison: “We don’t like to discuss politics here. It divides and we are here to enjoy ourselves.”

As The Tribune team prods them further, urging them to elaborate on the deciding factors for them to cast votes, Karamjit Singh initially shrugs off the question saying the mercury was rising, but the political heat was yet see an upward trend.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Photo: Pawan Sharma

Slowly, as they begin to open up, these villagers compare the “inaccessibility of the three-time MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal with the easy approachability and humble nature of AAP candidate Gurmeet Singh Khuddian, but they also reminisce the development works done during the Akali rule between 2007 and 2017.

The villagers also talk about an Independent candidate (Lakha Singh Sidhana) and a namesake of Gurmeet Singh being fielded by a political party, dismissing this as old tactics that won’t work this time. “We have understood the ways of politicians. Such tactics used to work earlier, but not anymore,” says Bhola Singh, a daily wager hailing from Budhlada.

Even as the polling date (June 1) draws near, the constituency seems quite indifferent to elections this time. As we entered the constituency from Budhlada and traversed through Maur, Mansa and Bathinda (urban and rural), we could hardly see any election paraphernalia. The billboards of most candidates were sparse; party flags and small pole flexes were a rare sight; and other than Harsimrat’s party offices visible almost everywhere, the other candidates’ campaign seemed low key.

But this does not mean that the election is a cakewalk for the three-time MP and wife of Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, though voters still laud the development works carried out during the Akali rule here.

This election for her has been made difficult by Khudian, who had earlier defeated the Badal family patriarch, late Parkash Singh Badal, in the 2022 Assembly elections from Lambi. Being an Agriculture Minister and contesting from the largely agrarian Lok Sabha seat, he is getting voters’ positive response. Free power (300 units) to domestic consumers is also helping out AAP.

The other challengers, including BJP candidate Parampal Kaur Sidhu, known here as the daughter-in-law of Akali leader Sikandar Singh Maluka and not as a former IAS officer; and former MLA Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, who first switched from the Congress to the Akali Dal and is now back in the Congress, have also made deep inroads into the constituency.

Voters remember the work done by Maluka during the Akali regime in Punjab, when no one sought “bribe” from them. Interestingly, while the “betrayal” by the Maluka family maybe raised by some, for voters of Bathinda, it is a non-issue.

Across the nine Assembly segments of this Lok Sabha constituency, namely Lambi, Bathinda, Bhucho, Bathinda Urban, Bathinda Rural, Maur, Mansa, Sardulgarh and Budhlada, drug abuse continues to be an important election issue.

Other than that, the non-release of compensation for crop loss due to bad weather (though the government has started releasing it); poor implementation of welfare schemes like distribution of ration; PM Grameen Awaas Yojana; and most importantly, the rapidly growing unemployment are the major issues here.

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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.

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