Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh has won twice from the Patiala-1 assembly seat and is all set to do a hat-trick. Reason: the development works carried out by the former CM in his constituency in particular and Patiala district in general.
From providing basic amenities in the walled city to road-widening projects costing several crores, Patiala witnessed large-scale development when Amarinder was at the helm of affairs (2002-07). There was a major hike in property prices in the city in his tenure.
In five years, Amarinder spent nearly Rs 400 crore on the city's development. The Patiala MC includes almost 90% of the area of the Patiala-1 constituency. With the aim of improving connectivity and easing traffic congestion, narrow roads connecting the city to Samana, Rajpura, Sirhind and Nabha were four-laned, while overbridges came up above railway crossing No 21 and 22. A major achievement was the Rs 126-crore sewerage project, in which the ganda nullah (open drain) of the walled city was covered, fulfilling a long-pending demand of residents.
"Covering the nullah not only solved the problem of stench, but also gave a facelift to the area," said Girdhari Lal, a resident of the walled city. However, the sewerage project for the outskirts hit a roadblock after the SAD-BJP government came to power in 2007. MC executed nearly Rs 80-crore development projects from 2002-07, with lion's share again going to Capt's constituency.
The city became a cultural hub during his tenure as CM, hosting international polo matches, heritage festivals and the Indo-Pak Punjab Games (2004). No wonder, these activities stopped after the change of guard in the state.
"Yes, Capt did a great job for the city when he was the CM. Thanks to him, Patiala has smooth traffic and good infrastructure. He deserves a chance to be made the CM again," said Kapur Chand Sharma, a resident of the walled city.
However, a few of Amarinder's promises have remained unfulfilled. The bus stand and dairies are yet to be shifted from the city. The Akalis, however, claim that Amarinder's development projects have put the MC under debt.
"The former CM didn't spent anything from the state treasury. He raised loans for development purposes. The MC is still repaying loans raised for the sewerage project. Due to the debt burden, we are not able to initiate any major project as of now," said mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, who owes allegiance to SAD.
The development initiatives carried out during Amarinder's tenure as CM have paid dividends for his wife Preneet Kaur, three-time MP from the Patiala Lok Sabha seat. In the 2009 elections, she defeated SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumjara by about 1 lakh votes, of which the margin was around 70,000 from Patiala-1 and Patiala (rural) constituencies, where Amarinder undertook a majority of the projects. Specualtion is rife that his son, Raninder Singh, might contest from Patiala Rural.