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Survival at stake for Barnalas

india Updated: Jan 16, 2012 11:12 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The battle for the Dhuri seat is virtually a do-or-die affair for the Barnala family.

Former chief minister and Akali stalwart Surjit Singh Barnala is eyeing a comeback in Punjab politics through his son, Gaganjit, the Sanjha Morcha candidate from Dhuri.

The Barnalas have remained sidelined ever since they parted ways with the Badals' Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) after the 2007 polls and floated the SAD (Longowal) about two years ago.

Once a politically influential family, the Barnalas are now battling for survival in politics.

Gaganjit had won the Dhuri seat in 2002 on the SAD ticket, but he lost in 2007 to SAD rebel and Independent candidate Iqbal Singh Jhunda by a margin of more than 10,000 votes.

This time, he is pitted against Congress candidate Arvind Khanna, the 'right hand man' of PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh, and former Akali minister Gobind Singh Longowal.

A major cause of concern for Gaganjit is octogenarian Surjit Singh Barnala's ailing health. The latter would not be able to campaign for his son with the same energy and intensity as on previous occasions.

Gaganjit is depending on his mother, SAD (Longowal) president Surjit Kaur Barnala, who is actively canvassing for him. The family is not only trying to tap Surjit Singh Barnala's support base in Dhuri but also wooing sizeable number of followers of another SAD stalwart, the late Harchand Singh Longowal.

"It's not a question of family legacy. I served the people of Dhuri in 2002 and performed quite well. It's like a home to me and I have lived up to the voters' expectations," said Gaganjit.

Many feathers in his cap

The senior Barnala was elected twice to Parliament (1977 and 1998) from Sangrur, serving as a union minister on both occasions. He was the chief minister of Punjab during the mid-1980s. In 1999, he lost the parliamentary election to Simranjit Singh Mann from the same seat.

Barnala's wife Surjit Kaur was elected MLA from Barnala in 1977. After Barnala's loss in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the family also lost its hold on the Barnala assembly constituency. Gaganjit had to shift his base to Dhuri, from where he won in 2002 but lost badly in 2007. The Barnala family had then blamed SAD secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa for the debacle