Those who studied with former Punjab minister Jasjit Randhawa’s daughter Anu Randhawa in YPS, Patiala, did not know she was a minister’s daughter as unlike Punjab’s status-conscious politicians, the family kept a low profile.
Dressed in a simple suit, sports shoes and dupatta around her neck, she looks every bit the “aam aadmi” her party and its symbol, broom, stands for. There is no convoy of SUVs trailing her car as she campaigns in Ghanaur, the seat her father won twice, lost once and nurtured all along.
But that alone may not sell with the voters. So, she invokes AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and his many promises, from “mohalla” clinics opened by his government in Delhi, trained teachers, more tubewells for free power and “rozgar” (employment) to each family.
- Name: Anu Randhawa
- Age: 35
- Party: Aam Aadmi Party
- Constituency: Ghanaur
- Educational qualification: Masters in Public Administration
- By the way: Maintained a low profile and her school friends did not know she was a minister Jasjit Randhawa’s daughter
- Poll Quotient : Invokes AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and his many promises, from “mohalla” clinics opened by his government in Delhi, trained teachers and “rozgar” to each family.
As she speaks to a motley crowd of people who have gathered at the main “chauraha” (roundabout) of Sehri village in chaste Punjabi, Anu tells them their party is promising “rozgar” not jobs. “Those selling you dreams of government jobs don’t even pay timely salaries to employees. If these two parties had been doing a good job, there would have been no space for emergence of the AAP in Punjab,” she adds.
The elder of Randhawa’s two daughters, Anu, says the legacy was bestowed on her by the people of the constituency as a “siropa” (robe of honour) at her father’s “bhog” in February 2015. “I am not a politician. But I want to carry on the good work of my father. He was a common man’s leader. Had my father been alive, he would have joined AAP too,” she says after ending her speech.
Bibiya nu pata ae ki gandh te jharu naal hi saaf hona (women know filth can only be swept away with a broom)
In a triangular contest, Anu is pitted against another woman, sitting Akali Dal MLA Harpreet Kaur Mukhmailpur, who contested the seat of her ailing husband, former minister Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur, in the 2012 polls.
The Bibi, as Mukhmailpur is known in the predominantly rural seat with 173 villages and just six urban booths, is still a proxy for her husband, say villagers.
But on a personal front, Anu is up against the “royal” might. The urban legend is that when Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh had faced a revolt of Congress MLAs against him as the CM, Jasjit was PM Manmohan Singh’s choice as Captain’s replacement — a Jat Sikh from the latter’s home turf. Amarinder was able to save his throne but the palace intrigues led to Madan Lal Jalalpur being “promoted” by the Patiala royalty to clip Randhawa’s wings.
Now, the family wants to avenge Randhawa’s defeat by taking on Congress nominee Jalalpur, once Randhawa’s protégé. Jalalpur had contested as a rebel from Ghanaur in 2007 elections and in 2012 polls, Jasjit was denied the party ticket from here and was fielded from Dera Bassi instead, where he lost. For Jalalpur, Anu’s favourite catchword is “aathvi fail” (he flunked Class 8).
As the crowd disperses after her speech, some of them emerge to be “snooping” supporters of the Congress and Akalis. “The Bibi gives darshan to just two homes in the village, including that of the sarpanch. We will vote for the Congress,” says 35-year-old farmer Raghbir Singh. But most of them avow allegiance to the newbie AAP.
“I would not have voted for her if she was from the Congress or Akali Dal. My brother is in the US. He has asked us to vote for change,” says Amanpreet Cheema (32), a farmer. In her speeches, Anu does not forget to strike an emotional chord with women. “Bibiyan nu pata ae ki gandh te jharu naal hi saaf hona (women know garbage can be swept away only with a broom).”
But it is women that are harder to convince. As Anu leaves a house during a round of the village meeting women with folded hands, the oldest, Daljit Kaur, says for them the choice is between two women. But she betrays which side she is. “Bibi ne pind da sudhaar te kafi kita ae (Mukhmailpur has improved the condition of the village),” she says.
FRESH FACES IN THE FRAY: LAST OF 13 PART SERIES