As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a staunch critic of dynastic politics, shared stage with the Badal clan on Sunday at Kotkapura, the village of former Indian President Giani Zail Singh nearby has a story of a forgotten son.
Sitting at his home in Sandhwan village of Kotkapura, 80-year-old Joginder Singh says his father had asked him to take a pledge against dynastic politics.
“Gianiji kende si raje da putt raja nahi hona chahida (Gianiji used to say a king’s son should not be a king). We were both at the Anandpur Sahib gurdwara when my father told me to take a pledge that I wont be like sons of other Punjab CMs. I gave him my word,” he says.
It was after Zail Singh died in 1994 that Joginder contested an election as the Congress candidate later, but lost.
The reasons are not difficult to fathom. It is believed that Zail Singh, whose presidency saw the Operation Bluestar, assasination of former PM Indira Gandhi and 1984 anti-Sikh riots, had earned the wrath of Sikhs for being a “mute spectator” to the events.
Though Zail Singh’s three daughters later spoke in their father’s defence to media saying “he was pained but helpless”, his only son has since kept to his village and the farms.
As Zail Singh’s grandnephew Kultar Singh is now staking a claim to the legacy as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate in Kotkapura, Joginder says he can’t stop him from doing so.
“I did give a clarification in newspapers that he is my father’s grandnephew, not grandson. One of my sons is in the police and the other is a businessman. I have no regret that neither me nor my sons are carrying forward my father’s legacy,” he adds.
Will he vote for his party Congress or Kultar? He nods his head in vehement denial. “Mantar Brar (Akali Dal MLA and candidate) defeated me as an independent. But our families have old ties,” he sums it up. But Kultar is not complaining. “He gave me ₹1,100 and his blessings when I started the campaign,” says Kultar. So is Sandhwan, which now prides itself as the village of Kotkapura’s two main contestants, Kultar and Mantar.