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Politics thicker than blood

india Updated: Jan 22, 2012 14:22 IST
Manpreet Randhawa

This is a high-profile triangular contest featuring blood relations.

While Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and People's Party of Punjab nominee Gurdas Singh Badal are brothers, the Congress has fielded their cousin, Mahesh Inder Singh Badal.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Parkash Singh Badal is contesting for the fourth successive time from here, while Gurdas, who used to manage his elder brother's election campaign, is contesting for the party his son Manpreet Badal formed after parting ways with the SAD.

Sensing that winning the Lambi seat for the fourth time may not be a cakewalk for the CM, his daughter-in-law and SAD MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Kaur Badal is now seeking 'forgiveness' from voters for failing to provide benefits of various schemes introduced by the SAD-BJP government.

"We know that middlemen and agents siphoned off a majority of the funds the state government had released for people under various schemes, such as shagun, old age and widow pensions. Many of you have not even able to get the benefit of the atta-dal scheme. The money the government released for the poor sections of society to build houses also did not reach the beneficiaries. While some people built four houses, the needy could not get even one," says Harsimrat while addressing a gathering at Tapa Khera village in the Lambi constituency.

In the same breath, she adds, "But please do not hold Parkash Singh Badal responsible for all this. He sent the grants, but these failed to reach you because of the middlemen. If you do not vote for him due to this reason, you will lose a visionary and experienced chief minister who is far better than other candidates. We have identified these middlemen and will teach them a lesson once we come to power again," claims Harsimrat, who is campaigning for the senior Badal in his absence.

However, she finds it hard to placate the listeners. Karam Singh, a villager, is made to sit down by Harsimrat's supporters whenever he stands up to target the SAD-BJP government. Another villager, Sarabjit Kaur, manages to get near Harsimrat and criticises the Badal government for failing to give a bicycle to her daughter.

"I don't fear these people. I openly say that this government has done nothing for us. They promised free education for our children, but to no avail," says Sarabjit. Harsimrat assures her that she would get the cycle once the SAD forms the next government.

The Bathinda MP also cites the prolonged illness of her mother-in-law, the late Surinder Kaur, for the government's failure to deliver justice and services to the people. "Our entire family was by her side for almost a year and a half. Hence, we could not keep a check on the middlemen as they made money," argues Harsimrat.

EC should continue in this vein: Mahesh Inder
Mahesh Inder is hopeful of improving his performance. He contested as an Independent in 2002 and got nearly 28,000 votes. In 2007, he contested on the Congress ticket and received about 48,000 votes, losing to Parkash Singh Badal by only 9,100 votes.

"People seem to have made up their mind to bring change. The CM's 'confinement' in this constituency for the past 11 days speaks volumes about the anxiety the Badal family is feeling. Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat are camping here to ensure that no upheaval occurs," says Mahesh Inder.

He is also happy about the strictness being observed by the Election Commission. "If the EC continues in this vein till the end of the polls, anything can happen," adds Mahesh Inder. He is confident that Gurdas would eat into the senior Badal's vote bank.

Gurdas, who is unable to walk without help and delivers a major part of his speech sitting on a chair, tells voters not to presume that he has come to seek votes for Parkash Singh

Badal. "This time, I am seeking votes for the party (PPP) which we formed last year," Gurdas tells a gathering at Adhrian village.

"Both the SAD and the Congress are rich parties which will give you a lot of money. The Congress is offering Rs 10,000 per vote. But you should not ask for less than Rs 15,000. These people have made money using unfair means. You take the money but don't vote for them. I will not even complain to the EC," quips Gurdas.