Travelling in a black Bolero, Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Himmat Singh Shergill waves to voters through the windows. Getting down every 2-3 km, he asks the same question: “Vote kihnu pauni hai? (Whom would you vote for?)” And the replies are the same: “Jharu nu (broom, the AAP symbol).”
Riding the ‘AAP wave’ in Punjab, Shergill happily shows to mediapersons how people are replying to his query.
“It is a complete wave, but several people are reluctant to annoy local leaders. You will see that large chunks of silent voters would vote for us (AAP),” he says.
Distributing AAP caps (and bands to those wearing turbans), Shergill keeps hopping on and off his Bolero, given by Punjabi farmers of Gujarat for campaigning.
He knows where to talk of water scarcity and where to narrate the tale of his legal fight in the Supreme Court to safeguard rights of tillers from Punjab in the Kutch area of Gujarat — a struggle which got him the AAP ticket. He is pitted against Congress veteran Ambika Soni and Akali stalwart Prem Singh Chandumajra.
He begins the penultimate day of his campaigning at 6.30 am, reaching the Changar area on the Shivalik foothills, dotted with kutcha houses where people complain of water scarcity and unemployment.
“You have seen both the Congress and the Akalis, assuring potable water for the past many, many years. Did you get the water?” he asks. “No, no,” came the replies from a small crowd in a remote village, inhabited by Gujjars.
In Anandpur Sahib assembly segment, Chaman Lal, a retired chief vigilance officer from National Fertilisers Limited, assists him. Davinder Kaur, a retired school principal and presently a social worker, has been accompanying him, criss-crossing villages and the holy town of Anandpur Sahib, her native place.
Shergill has such comrades in every assembly segment, from Mohali to Garhshankar, roughly a 100-km stretch covering the entire Lok Sabha constituency.
“Enough of speeches. Personal interaction (door-to-door) is a must now,” says Shergill, counting the hours left for the campaigning to end on Monday.
As local TV channels stop him for a byte in the Anandpur Sahib bazaar, he asks two basic questions: Why did the Congress pull out Ravneet Singh Bittu, who ought to reply to the people here about his accountability in the last 5 years? What right do the Badals have to rule when their government cannot provide drinking water, a basic need, in villages?”
“I will address these issues as I’m sure I will be your MP now,” he tells the crowd, as a schoolteacher with his wife and small child riding pillion stops his bike to tell him about the pathetic condition of government schools.
Shergill gets involved in the discussion on Punjab’s education system, agreeing to the schoolteacher’s assertions.
Stopping another family travelling in a car, he hands over caps and turban bands to them, greeting the women inside with folded hands. The smiles make him all the more excited, as he asks his comrades to hand over more caps to him.
There is hardly a moment when Shergill stands silently in the crowd. When he listens to the people’s problems, he seeks a chance to redress their issues as their representative.