Sounds of azadi, azadi (freedom) can be heard reverberating across the Gurdaspur constituency. For Congress candidate and sitting MP, Partap Singh Bajwa, the term azadi implies “freedom from the autocratic rule of the SAD-BJP government in the state”.
Bajwa, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief, in his election rallies explains that for freeing the state from the drug and sand mafia, people must vote for the Congress. He says that like the British, Akalis imprison anyone who talks in favour of the Congress. Bajwa is depending on the anti-incumbency against the state gover nment as he highlights achievements of the UPA government.
BAJWA ATTACKS SAD-BJP GOVT
The crowd is small at Karwalia village in the Fatehgarh Churian assembly constituency of Gurdaspur. Accompanied by party MLA Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, as soon as the PPCC chief gets off his vehicle, a middle-aged woman stops him.
“Powder pa ditta Akalia ne mere munde te (Akalis have got my son arrested under the NDPS Act),” she tells the Congress can did ate while claiming that this was done as she had voted for Tripat Bajwa in the assembly polls and had come out in open support of the Congress this time.
This gives Bajwa the ammo to attack the opposition and he begins with a question, “Who is responsible for the sale of drugs to the boys of our villages? Who frames Congress supporters in false cases?”
The people respond by blaming the Akalis for the drug trade in the state and also for framing Congress supporters in fake cases. Some village folk even muster the courage to take the names of drug dealers of the area.
Bajwa then holds the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) manifesto of 2012 in his hands and reads out portions and then asks the village residents whether they were getting the old age and widow pensions.
A majority shake their heads while an elderly man gets up and accuses the village sarpanch, an Akali supporter, of pocketing the pensions of the dead.
“Do you know that Badal sahib is also collecting ‘kutta’ (dog) tax in cities?” the PPCC chief asks as a few listeners burst out into laughter while others think he is joking. But when told that this is a reality, they can scarcely believe it.
As he leaves for the next election rally, he tells people that the time had come to teach Akalis a lesson.
Talking about his BJP rival, Bajwa says, “Have you ever seen this man from Mumbai? He is a very good actor, asks for your votes, wins and then disappears to Mumbai and returns after five years.”
‘NO MODI WAVE’
Talking to HT, Bajwa claims there is no Modi wave in the constituency.
He defends highlighting state issues, saying, “People in Punjab are feeling suffocated. Did anyone ever think that sand would become costlier than sugar? Why should people vote for the SAD-BJP?”
Asked about his rival, he says, “His performance as an MP was dismal and his attendance in the House was poor.
Physically also he has gone weak. He will disappear to Mumbai after the polls.”
Asked about dissidence in the Congress, Bajwa claimed that there was total unity in the rank and file of the party.
He said all Congress leaders of Gurdaspur were backing him and canvassing whole-heartedly for him.
On the claims by his rival that he had ignored the constituency, the sitting MP pointed out that despite his commitments as PPCC chief, he always found time for his people.
In Parliament, he had a good attendance record and in Member Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund distribution he was among the top five MPs.
He said the Beas - Qadian rail link project, which he had mooted and got passed was scuttled by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The CM got some farmers to protest against acquisition of their land for the railway line and due to this the project had been halted, he added.
“I had also proposed to get a rail coach factory for Kalanaur but Badal refused to give the available government land for the project which would have provided a lot of employment,” he added.
WIFE HOLDS FORT IN PATHANKOT
The sitting MP’s wife, Charanjit Kaur Bajwa, who is the MLA from Qadian, holds fort for her husband in Pathankot district.
She monitors the campaign in the BJP strongholds of Pathankot district and also holds rallies besides conducting a door-to-door campaign.