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A tale of two SAD presidents

punjab Updated: Aug 20, 2015 11:09 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times

Sant Harchand Singh Longowal's nephew, Mithu Singh, does small labour to make ends meet. Gurpreet Singh/HT

For two men who have both ruled the same party, the contrast between the families and native villages of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Parkash Singh Badal is stark.

While it's hard to measure how big the Badals' wealth and business empire has grown and how pampered their village has become, Longowal's nephew (his legal heir since Sant was unmarried) does small labour to make ends meet and this village of the former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president is a picture of neglect. Mithu Singh owns 3 acres that give him little. He is ashamed to tell you he had a great uncle who was shot dead in 1985, less than a month after signing the historic Punjab Accord with then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

An acre from Longowal's land was transferred to Mithu and seven other members of the family. A question about his relationship with the leader angered Mithu; but as villagers insisted, he said: "He (Longowal) did nothing for me; why should I acknowledge him?" He is one of eight nephews of Longowal. The others have the same opinion of Sant. Like Mithu, they also live in mud houses with leaking roofs and broken doors.

The nephews accuse their aunt, Sham Kaur, Longowal's sister, of fraud. "She deceived us to keep all the six compensatory jobs for her own family. When Captain Amarinder Singh as chief minister declared the benefit, she took our signatures to show her as the only true claimant the leader had left behind," said Mithu, flanked by his brother, Major Singh. "Sant made his driver (Gobind Singh Longowal) an MLA, while we struggle to make ends meet," he said.

He hopes for the SAD to show some generosity. "If Sham Kaur joins Amarinder on the Congress stage, we are ready to go up on the SAD dais, but the party must give us something," he said, criticising the SAD but wary of naming any leader. While the family is worried about own benefits, Gidariani is sad about its plight. "Look at the village of Badal, it has a university, a stadium, while we don't even have a health centre or a senior secondary school," said village nambardar Surjit Singh, adding: "Our daughters drop out of school because parents can't send them outside to study."

At the Longowal village gurdwara, Akali MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Dhuri legislator Gobind Singh Longowal are overseeing arrangements for the big function to observe the martyrdom anniversary of Sant Longowal, where chief minister Badal, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will deliver addresses. A holiday has been declared in Sangrur to draw a crowd. At Longowal's actual native village, Gidariani, there is no activity.