Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who won the 2009 and 2012 polls with a huge margin, is now battling hard to retain the Rai Sikh-dominated seat in the Fazilka district.
Challenging him this time are comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress’ Ravneet Singh Bittu, who is the grandson of former Punjab CM late Beant Singh.
Sukhbir is not only fighting a poll battle with two opponent MPs, but also with two-time Akali MP and former Jalalabad MLA Sher Singh Ghubaya, who vacated the assembly seat for Sukhbir to ensure his entry into the Vidhan Sabha in 2009 bypoll and he emerged victorious with a margin of more than 80,000 votes.
Sukhbir, who is an adept poll manager, will have to keep his vote bank, especially the 65,000-odd Rai Sikhs, intact to record a third win in a row from here.
The contest, which has traditionally been between the Congress and Akalis, has become all the more interesting with the entry of AAP.
Sukhbir claims to have undertaken various development projects in the constituency, including opening of a degree college, nursing college, multipurpose stadium, sewerage system and providing basic amenities in rural and urban areas.
“Bhagwant Mann is a comedian, who works for money. During my Parliamentary campaign in Faridkot, he took Rs 4 lakh to sing peans to me before I took to the stage,” said Sukhbir. He urged people to judge for themselves as to how a “joker” could provide them water for irrigation or pave roads and streets.
“After visiting villages and towns of the constituency, it’s hard to believe that the state’s most powerful man, Sukhbir, represented the segment for seven years. Illegal sand mining is rampant, eligible youth failed to get jobs while wards of Akali stooges got government jobs,” says Ravneet Bittu.
“After apprehending his defeat, Sukhbir pleaded with the Congress to field Bittu to cut into AAP votes. They have made Bittu a scapegoat to divert the anti-incumbency votes but voters of Jalalabad are understand their undercover tactics and will create history by defeating the duo with a huge margin,” said Mann.