The electoral battle in Amritsar has developed into a no-holds-barred slanging match. Both Navjot Singh Sidhu of the Akali Dal-BJP and Surinder Singla of the Congress have been launching personal attacks against each other in colourful language.
During a television debate, Singla called Sidhu a “murderer”. Sidhu responded by calling him a “dalal” (pimp). When asked by HT if he had any reason for using the word, Sidhu’s defence was: “Singla started it. Heere ko heera kat-ta hai. Jab sanp dank marta hai to uske zeher ka ilaaj bhi zeher se hota hai. (A diamond cuts a diamond. And the antidote for venom is venom).”
The Supreme Court recently stayed Sidhu’s conviction in a road rage case by the Punjab High Court, allowing him to seek re-election. Among the other comments the cricketer-turned-politician has made on the campaign trail are:
“Haraam ka paisa lekar koi Amritsar ka imaan kharid lega (Can anyone buy Amritsar's conscience with money made dishonestly)?”
“Singla is a golden drum. He makes a lot of noise. But when you tear it open there is nothing but air.” “Chand par thukoge to chand maila nahin hoga (If you spit at the moon it will not be dirtied).”
Sidhu has also attacked chief minister Amarinder Singh and his party, finance minister P. Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He has described Amarinder as a “property dealer” who has sold Punjab, and the Prime Minister a “good man” under pressure from multiple power centres. And on Chidambaram, he has said: “What was the Finance Minister doing (on SEZs)? Laying eggs?”
The crowds have been responsive, whistling and cheering: “O bha-ji, tusi chha gaye (Brother you have done it),” they roar. They congratulate him, embrace him, as if the battle is already won. They say he is their “dilan di dhadkan” (heartbeat), and Punjab’s “sher-e-puttar” (lion’s cub). Sidhu has been connecting well with his audience. He has been a bigger hit in the semi-urban and rural areas of his constituency. In the heart of the city, he speaks of “zero development”, land scams, liquor mafia and so on are .
His favourite line: “Land at 60 rupees a square yard for the rich, and dal at 60 rupees a kilo for the poor.” His pet accusation: “They (the Congress) are dacoits, blood-suckers who have unleashed a goonda raj…”