Embittered by corruption in Indian politics, medical practitioner Narinder Kumar Kohli had stopped casting his vote 20 years ago. He changed his mind recently, won over by developmental work in Gurdaspur constituency initiated by one man.
“I will exercise my right to franchise during the coming Lok Sabha elections only to support him. His contribution in this area in the past one decade has been immense. Vinod Khanna is a real-life hero for me,” said the 58-year-old doctor, browsing pages of a local vernacular newspaper at his dawakhana, or clinic.
Kohli has never met the veteran Bollywood star-turned-politician, but cannot stop praising him.
“Gurdaspur residents were used to not marry their daughters to boys from Hoshiarpur district because the places were not connected by roads. Business or social ties could not flourish since Independence, as there was no bridge at Shawala Pattan village leading to Hoshiarpur. Boats were the only transportation, and life would be miserable during heavy rains,” he recalled.
Khanna got funds sanctioned and the bridge was built six years ago. Now, it is easy for me to reach Dasuha in Hoshiarpur to visit my daughter and her in-laws.”
Kohli is among the thousands of locals who benefited from the surface transport connectivity. “Another bridge connecting local areas Taragarh and Narot Jaimal Singh was also built because of his efforts. He gave a lifeline to Gurdaspur,” said Janak Kumar, a sweet shop owner.
Khanna’s major achievement was to get central government funds sanctioned to build bridges, making the district headquarters accessible.
“Earlier, residents of Narot Jaimal Singh and adjoining areas used to hire boats to cross over the Beas river to reach Gurdaspur via Taragarh.
More than 60 per cent residents of Narot Jaimal Singh would have not visited Gurdaspur till the bridge came up,” said Nagar Singh, a farmer from Saharnpur near Taragarh. He said the BJP MP was doing a good job, even if he was inaccessible.
People of Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Taragarh and Pathankot seem satisfied with Khanna’s performance.
Except people in Pathankot, residents in most part of Khanna’s constituency did not have a regular interface with him. “Khanna doesn’t have any office in Gurdaspur. But after all, he is a national leader. I contact the local municipal councillor or MLA for my daily works,” said Mohan Lal from Pathankot.
Inaccessibility is the biggest grouse against him. “He rarely frequents the villages in Gurdaspur. He should set up his offices in various parts of the constituency so that villagers can submit their complaints,” said Taragarh resident Jagir Singh.
Meanwhile, Khanna got approved another bridge to be constructed on the Ujj rivulet to connect 50 villages with the district headquarters.
“The NABARD has approved the bridge project and work will start soon. Most residents in 50 villages don’t have social ties across the river and the proposed bridge will usher a new era,” Khanna told HT. “I am pushing to set up a private university also as we need private players to raise sagging standards of the education sector”