The Patialvis are sure that tradition will return royal heir Capt Amarinder Singh to victory from Patiala Urban in the forthcoming Punjab assembly elections and the observers nod in accord. However, with the fielding of former army chief Gen JJ Singh as the SAD-BJP candidate there and the modest surgeon Balbir Singh of the AAP completing the triangle have turned the contest into a mocktail of sorts.
The phulkari-paranda city turns into a smear battleground with the General saying that he has ‘20’ medals on his chest and the Captain with his ‘colourful dreams’ has only ‘two’. The Captain dismisses the JJ Singh as “a lacklustre and average General!”
CAPTAIN’S EDGE OVER GENERAL
“Punjabi voters enjoy such repartee,” says Surjeet Lee, a retired linguistics professor of Punjabi University. He is quick to add that Patiala city is indeed the Captain’s citadel, saying: “We do not take Amarinder as a politician but as one of Patiala’s own, so also his wife Preneet Kaur, a cultured and concerned citizen. Their family had done a lot for Patiala and they gave the city institutions like the Mohindra College that dates back to 1875, the Yadavindra Public School and Preneet played a positive role in upgrading of the Rajendra Hospital.”
Interestingly, the General too has a Patiala connection because both his paternal and maternal families migrated from the Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) district to Patiala for some time when he was but a two-year child, which does not make him an ‘outsider’. Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, father of Amarinder Singh, had given shelter to thousands of refugees. Ironically, this makes the relationship between the Captain and the General as one of the ‘saviour’ and the ‘saved’.
AAP MAKES INROADS
The ‘Tom and Jerry’ show between the two ‘faujis’ makes for entertainment and voters are largely silent but a kinnow juice vendor on the Patiala road, smiling in an orange turban matching the colour of the fruit, sums it up: “The fight in the rural areas is between the Congress and the jhadoo (broom).” The AAP is generally referred to by its symbol in the Patiala rural areas.
In a largely silent election, for as the voters say the real battle is being fought in the virtual world on social media, AAP supporters returning from a rally suddenly stop on a busy city road, wave a broom and dance to the song ‘Kejriwal Kejriwal, sara Punjab tere naal’! The city also has a fair share of NRIs who have turned up to influence their relatives to vote for the AAP.
Harcharan Singh Punia, a retired college principal now living in Vancouver, says “We gathered a million dollars for the AAP in Canada. It has not been easy but AAP has made inroads into the royal reserves. It is evident from the fact that Preneet with her daughter, and grand-daughter are canvassing in the ‘bastis’. Our vote is for change.” While the AAP is attracting more of the younger lot, yet some senior citizens have been swept by it. Punjabi writer and former Railways’ PRO Surinder Sharma says,”Change is always sweet!”