Despite being the home district of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the home constituency of late CM Harcharan Singh Brar, Muktsar is a picture of neglect on the development front.
Lack of basic amenities is a major issue in the town and villages of the Muktsar assembly constituency. The ills afflicting the area include potholed roads, waterlogging, shortage of potable drinking water, poverty, rural indebtedness and drug addiction. Incidence of cancer, arthritis, tooth decay and water-borne diseases is high. It was during Brar's tenure as the Congress CM when Muktsar got district status in 1995. However, not much has changed in the constituency since then.
Brar's son Kanwarjit Singh, alias Sunny Brar, is the sitting MLA from the constituency. The Brars' residence at their ancestral village, Sarainaga, 16 km from Muktsar town, boasts of a stud farm and a dairy farm.
Vinod Bansal, former political secretary to Brar, said, "The railway overbridge at Kotkapura is one of Brar's biggest gifts to the area."
Bansal also credited Brar with bringing the government college and the regional campus of Panjab University to Muktsar in 1995. He also claimed that Brar was responsible for bringing the oil refinery project to Bathinda.
The campus of regional centre has been running in a building in a bad shape.
"The Brar family is one of the most influential families of Punjab. However, the Muktsar constituency has largely remained neglected. The district status did not improve the lot of residents," said Balwinder Singh, a resident of Sarainaga.
People don't get enough potable water from the supply of the water works department. They have no option but to drink groundwater, which has high fluoride content and has been declared unfit for consumption.
A senior official said, "It is not advisable to drink groundwater from a well less than 100-feet deep. Doing it is like committing suicide. We are spreading awareness in this regard."
A Rs 50-crore project to cover the entire town for water supply and sewer lines under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is yet to benefit residents. The central grant has been approved, but work is still in progress.
Former CM won twice from Muktsar, his son has done it once
Born in 1922 at Sarainaga village in Muktsar district, Harcharan Singh Brar was first elected MLA from Muktsar in 1960.
He remained the Haryana governor from September 24, 1977, to December 9, 1979, and that of Orissa for about six months in 1976. He took over as the chief minister of Punjab on August 31, 1995, following the assassination of then CM Beant Singh. He remained the chief minister till November 21, 1996, when Rajinder Kaur Bhattal took charge as Punjab's first woman CM.
Brar, known for his aristocratic lifestyle, was elected MLA four times — from Muktsar in 1960 and 1992, Gidderbaha in 1967 (when he defeated Parkash Singh Badal by a narrow margin) and Kotkapura in 1969.
Harcharan Brar's wife Gurbinder Kaur Brar, daughter of former chief minister Partap Singh Kairon's brother Jaswant Singh, was not only elected MP from Faridkot in 1980 but also led the Punjab Congress Legislature Party as well as donning the mantle of the Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha. She is the link between the Brars and the Kairons, two powerful political families of Punjab.
Brar's daughter Babli Brar and daughter-in-law Karan Kaur Brar lost the Lok Sabha elections from Faridkot to Sukhbir Badal in 1996 and 2004, respectively.
In the 1997 assembly elections, Brar, upset with the Congress over his removal from the chief minister's post, withdrew his nomination papers from the Muktsar seat at the last moment. In 2002, Brar lost to independent candidate Sukhdarshan Singh Mrar. In 2007, Brar's son Kanwarjit Singh was elected MLA.
Harcharan Brar died at Chandigarh in 2009.