Will Sohan Singh Thandal be lucky fifth time? This is the nucleus of discussion across Chabbewal these days. SAD nominee Sohan Singh Thandal has not tasted defeat since 1997 when he became a legislator for the first time.
In 2012, he had to work harder as a strong anti incumbency, lack of development, allegations of land grab and an adverse court ruling in disproportionate asset case weighed against him. But a rebel Congress candidate and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) divided the Congress vote bank and gifted him a win by 6,246 votes. He went on to become a chief parliamentary secretary and then a cabinet minister.
Chabbewal reserve constituency was carved out by shuffling Mahilpur, Garhshankar and Hoshiarpur segments.
The segment craves for development, a fact that even Thandal admitted at a recent election rally when he urged the deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal to grant more funds for roads and industries in the area. From poor road connectivity and lack of irrigation facilities the concerns of people residing in this rural area are manifold.
The irrigation problem has been solved to a large extent with completion of Kandi Canal and deep tube wells, but drinking water, sewerage and other infrastructure still need a major boost.
Knowing well that the competition is tougher this time, Thandal and district SAD president Surinder Singh Bhilewal Rathan have called a truce and are helping each other in campaigning. Rathan is contesting from adjoining Garhshankar constituency.
If for Thandal, it is matter of prestige to retain the seat, stakes are high for the Congress nominee and PPCC SC cell chairman Raj Kumar too.
The Congress nominee had previously lost to Thandal. The medico-turned politician has even added the name of the Chabbewal town to his name. His detractors call him an ‘outsider’ as he lives in Hoshiarpur city. Unfazed by criticism, through an NGO Koshish, he provides free or subsidized diagnostic aid to people of the segment. His approachability and mild manners are his biggest assets.
To make things tough for him, however, a rebel Congressman Balwinder Bittu has entered the fray. He claims to have the blessings of senior Congress leader Ambika Soni but the latter could not help him get the ticket.
There are rumours of his alleged deal with the SAD but Bittu says he is fighting for his honour. He has been the president of district youth Congress and is the sitting sarpanch of Mal Majara village. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have also fielded their candidates, making the contest trickier. AAP has fielded a novice Raman Kumar, who runs an automobile agency, whereas BSP has placed its bet on former state president Gurlal Saila who had unsuccessfully contested the previous assembly elections from Garhshankar. The BSP had won this seat in 1992 but thereafter its grip loosened. In 2012, it managed 12, 637 votes only but it still has the potential to disturb the applecart of other parties.
All eyes are fixed on AAP as to how much damage it will cause to the two main contestants. If not the contestant, ‘jhadoo’ has indeed become a talking point. Raman Kumar is likely to get the benefit of anti incumbency here.