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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Anti-incumbency vs Badal might in rural Amritsar

Sukhdeep Kaur , Hindustan Times  Ajnala, April 25, 2014
First Published: 10:51 IST(25/4/2014) | Last Updated: 10:52 IST(25/4/2014)

“For four months, I have not got any pension. The gover nment employees have not received their salaries. The arrears of dearness allowance have not been paid. When women protest, the police pull them by the hair and drag them,” says Karnail Singh, a retired teacher of a government school.

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Sandeep, 22, who runs a pharmacy shop in Ajnala, says young men get no job. “I have the shop to fall back on but most youth have drugs. The issue here is not Modi or Jaitley (BJP prime ministerial candidate and Amritsar nominee, respectively) but what the Parkash Singh Badal government has done or not done,” he says. Neither the old teacher nor the young pharmacist says which side they will vote, citing “pressure of those in power”.

‘NO ONE TALKING OF FARMERS’

At Bhakha Tara singh in Ajnala, farmer Nirmal Singh says they get power for their tubewells for only four hours a day. “During summers, our houses also get little power. The milk we drink is cheaper than the fodder we feed our cattle. No one is talking about how they will help far mers. Today they come to our door. After elections, they will not let us even enter their offices,” he says.

His son, Daljit Singh (18), is a first-time voter, who sees no point in getting a de g ree, as there are no jobs. “I do farming like my father and will vote for his candidate,” he adds. Other than the Congress and Akali supporters, most prefer not to speak their mind.

Ranjot Singh of Uggar Aulakh area of Aj nal a , a Cong re s s worker, says the silent voter is angry and will vote for his party, while Nir mal Singh vouches suppor t for the r uling SAD, saying: “What could Badal do, if the Centre did not give him grants?” Sitting outside a shop to see the cavalcade of Congress candidate Captain Amarinder Singh pass, he is quick to point out that most motorcycle riders in the road show are below 18 and not eligible to vote.

CHRISTIANS STAY MUM

Ajnala has a high number of Christian families and, though considered a Congress votebank, they too are not willing to speak. “We have to stay here. Even if people have made up their mind, we will not speak. We have all become silent voters,” said a shopkeeper, Daniel Massi.

EX-SERVICEMEN REMAIN GUARDED

Ajnala is also the land of the brave, with many a son of the soil joining the ar my. Yet, not many ex-servicemen turn up for the rally of Amarinder, a former soldier. The buzz at the Congress poll rallies is also of might versus might. One of the Congress speakers exhorts the “faujis” to stand guard at polling booths to prevent rigging. Lt Gen TS Shergill (retired), Amarinder’s close aide, also plays up who’s mightier rhetoric.

“Muqabala Gujarat de vakil (Jaitle y) te babbar sher (Amarinder) wich ae. Oh bater te wapas Gujarat udh jave ga (the fight is between the lawyer from Gujarat and our lion. The quail will fly back to Gujarat),” he says.

Captain, too, tries to strike a chord with “faujis”, recalling his days in the ar my and the war with China. A day before Modi rally in Amritsar, he hits out at his “aggressive posturing” against Pakistan. “We will fight wars when we have to but not just to win elections. What Amritsar needs is good relations with Pakistan to boost trade and employment. I am talking about the future of Amritsar and Modi is just talking about his own future. If there is a war, Jaitley will be the first to flee Amritsar, holding his dhoti,” he says.

In Majha, which Amarinder says is the land of people who like aggressiveness, he is trying to show he is mightier than the state government. There is a strong undercurrent of antiincumbency but it may not be enough to undermine the might of the “rulers”.

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