Though the smelly lanes of Patiala Urban and the poor civic infrastructure dent SAD-BJP candidate Bhagwan Dass Juneja’s poll prospects, his 30 years of social work is earning him points in spite of public anger against the ruling alliance.
As the Akali Dal has nothing to speak of for Patiala’s development, they fielded a candidate who could work as a shield against this disadvantage; and Juneja does just that. His social work speaks volumes for him.
From a tea-seller to a realtor, Juneja climbed up the rungs of success, but has not let it get to his head as he stayed in touch with commoners and pursued his social work.
However, he is faced with the uphill task of securing a three-fold increase in the Akali Dal’s vote bank to ensure victory from Patiala, as the party had finished third here with a meager 15% vote share in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
Juneja’s fate is largely dependent on three factors— his social work, polarisation of Hindu votes and micro management by the SAD.
SAD president Sukhbir Badal has fielded him eyeing the Hindus, who constitute nearly 55-60% of Patiala Urban’s electorate. To win over the Hindus, Juneja starts his speech with ‘Jai Shri Ram’, a rarity from the stage of the Panthic SAD. His day starts early, with him seeking the support of his morning-walk friends, followed by a door-to-door campaign after which he attends a briefings’ session with SAD leaders. He then starts his campaign, where SAD leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema and others make speeches in his favour.
Meanwhile, he has a fairly simple job of assuring people that “he is a common man and that his victory would be a victory of the common man”.
After opening his speech thus, Juneja seeks votes by reminding the public about the social and developmental works in the city by him and his sons.
Over time, he has also infused a political angle into speech as he criticises Congress candidate Preneet Kaur for the city’s non-development. He draws a comparision by saying, "In spite of 15 years as MP, she has nothing to list before you, whereas I have planted over one lakh trees, provided shelter to homeless, installed benches in parks."
"Voting for Preneet is akin to wasting your right as the SAD-BJP is in power at the Centre and the state. If you will elect me, I will bring all-round development," he claims. As a familiar face in the city, he evokes positive response from the local citizens. And he packs a punch in his concluding lines and says, “Irrespective of the results, my social work will continue.”