With an MLA, a former MP and a former deputy speaker in the fray, the SAS Nagar electoral battle promises to be a cracker.
The assembly constituency comprises Mohali town and 82 surrounding villages. A majority of its area was carved out of the Kharar segment.
Originally envisaged as an IT hub, Mohali has witnessed a realty boom in recent years, especially after SAS Nagar was accorded district status by then Congress government in 2006. With agricultural land fetching prices as high as Rs 1.5 crore per acre and an international airport coming up, residents’ expectations have shot up, making it a high-stakes seat.
The SAD-BJP combine has fielded ex-MP Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who merged his Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) into the Shiromani Akali Dal in November last year. Former Vidhan Sabha deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh is the People’s Party of Punjab candidate, while the Congress nominee is sitting Kharar MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu. “I was a union minister and the minister-in-waiting when Queen Elizabeth came to India. I also received South African leader Nelson Mandela. Besides, I have worked as a lawyer in the Supreme Court. So, I am better than my rivals,” argues Ramoowalia.
The former LBP chief reveals that he was not keen on contesting the ‘below-his-stature’ assembly polls. “But Badal sahib (Parkash Singh Badal) insisted that I contest from Mohali and bring the town on a par with Gurgaon. So, I took up the challenge,” he said at a meeting of local residents in Phase 4. Party-hopper Bir Devinder claims that it was during his tenure (2002-07) as the Congress MLA from Kharar that Mohali started undergoing a change for the better. “I was a catalyst of Mohali’s development, so I have the right to ask for your vote,” he says while addressing a meeting of more than 200 residents of Godana village.
The PPP candidate recalls that he had refused to inaugurate a community centre at the last moment due to insanitary conditions, had pulled up government school teachers for poor performance of students and moved around in the constituency with a battery of officials to solve people’s problems.
“I am sure you remember all this,” he tells people. He also takes credit for daring to speak about then chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s alleged involvement in the Ludhiana City Centre scam.
Sidhu argues that Ramoowalia as well as Bir Devinder are outsiders. “I am from this area and have stood by you for the past 20 years. So much development has taken place here. Now, the district headquarters needs better infrastructure and we have to complete the projects which were abandoned after the Congress was voted out of power in 2007,” says the Kharar MLA.
In the 2007 elections, Sidhu had bagged 85,092 votes to defeat SAD candidate Jasjit Singh Bunny, son of senior Akali leader late Capt Kanwaljit Singh, by a margin of about 13,000 votes.
With Kanwaljit’s family out of the picture, Sidhu is confident of doing an encore, despite being pitted against two seasoned politicians.