“Maar diya jaye ke chhor diya jaaye, bol Congress tere saath kya salook kiya jaaye?” Voters of Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency have got used to hearing this dialogue every five years. In 1998 and 1999, people clapped when they heard this line — inspired by the famous song from the Vinod Khanna starrer ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ and would shout “once more”. Now, they no longer react.
Whatever may be the voters’ reaction, Bollywood star and BJP candidate Vinod Khanna starts his speech at every election rally with it. Perhaps he considers it lucky as he has won three of his four Lok Sabha polls.
This time, he lays greater stress on ‘Congress’ and repeatedly asks his audience what sort of treatment should be meted out to the rival party. His agenda is clear as he tells the electorate to reject the Congress for the scams that have taken place in the past 10 years of UPA rule.
If his opponent, Congress candidate Partap Singh Bajwa, talks about ‘azaadi’ (freedom) from the ‘tyrannical rule’ of the SAD-BJP government, Khanna promises the voters freedom from the ‘corrupt’ UPA government. He talks about a ‘vadda’ (big) package if Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister.
In his speeches, he links state issues such as unemployment with the UPA’s inability to sanction major projects for Punjab. While singing praises of Akali leaders, he limits himself to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Referring to the term, ‘Bridgewala Khanna’, that was coined for him during his second tenure as MP, the film star talks about the bridges he got constructed across the Ravi and Beas rivers and various other projects that he got sanctioned during the tenure of the NDA government.
“Can you tell me one project that Bajwa has brought to this constituency? He has remained away from here and you must teach him a lesson this time,” he tells the electorate at his rallies.
Starting at 8.30 am from his house in Pathankot, Khanna holds 7-8 election meetings in a day.
Arriving at Saroopwali village in the company of former speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, the BJP candidate comes straight to the point of attacking the UPA government.
“Have you heard of 2G and 3G and Coalgate?” he asks the crowd, which fails to respond. He explains the details and then asks the people about 'Jija ji ghotala'.
“This is the scam of Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. From having just Rs 1 lakh, he now has a business valued at Rs 300 crore,” he says, while claiming that this scam had been exposed by the Wall Street Journal. The audience hears him with a blank look on their faces.
A group of young women, who are late-comers, are not impressed when they see the star. “Eh buddha Vinod Khanna hai. Chal ghar chaliye (This old man is Vinod Khanna. Let’s go home).” Soon, they go back to their village.
Then, Khanna targets Bajwa and claims that not a single development work was undertaken by him.
“No one knows where the MPLAD funds of the past five years have gone. He did nothing for the industry of Batala,” he claims.
He blames Bajwa for scuttling development projects that Badal was getting sanctioned from the Centre. He then talks about the bridges that he got built as an MP and also claims to have been responsible for the four-laning of the Pathankot-Amritsat highway, a project currently being executed.
“I knew no politics and was making crores sitting in Mumbai. But Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji told me that the people of Gurdaspur needed me. So, here I am doing sewa for you, as God desired.
I have now become a Gurdaspuria as I have a house in Pathankot,” he tells the people while asking them to give him another chance as he has the ability to change the face of this constituency.
“I will make the Ranjit Sagar Dam a tourist spot and start water sports,” he says as some youngsters wonder what are water sports.
As he folds his hands before leaving for Shakarpura village, a couple of schoolchildren try to get close to him but are kept at bay by the cops.
After he has left, a schoolboy tells his friend, “Dharminder di film vich si, daaku banya si, badi maar khadi si Dharminder kolon (Vinod Khanna starred in Dharmendra’s film ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’, playing the role of a dacoit).”