It is a war in the Badal family for claiming political legacy. Five years ago, when Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal secured the highest lead of 68,000 votes from Budhlada assembly segment in this constituency, it was one of her own who helped her seal the lead to trump then Congress candidate Raninder Singh, son of former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, by over one lakh votes.
Ironically, the same man is now pitted against Harsimrat. Former finance minister Manpreet Badal who parted ways with the Shiromani Akali Dal two years ago to float the People’s Party of Punjab is the Congress candidate as he takes on the might of the ruling Badals.
Bathinda received the lion’s share of the populist schemes of the state government and development grants.
As the poll battle becomes bitter with the focus shifting from serious issues such as unemployment, inadequate teachers and doctors, poor sanitation and drug abuse, to a family mudslinging match, Harsimrat has been har ping on the “betrayal” by the family rebel.
The Badals have been trying to keep their traditional Akali vote bank intact by ter ming Manpreet a “Congress agent” and a “backstabber”.
Leaving nothing to chance, the SAD has orchestrated the defection of Congress MLA Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu to their fold just before the elections and also pulled off the poll gimmick of fielding a namesake of Manpreet with the surname Badal and poll symbol kite.
As he takes on the f amily might, the estranged nephew of the chief minister is not showing any signs of anxiety.
He is also stoking the anti-incumbency fire by asking people to vote against the ruling Badals, if not for him. He is also taking potshots at the development claims by pointing to the heavy taxes imposed by the SAD.
He is also trying to keep the vote bank of his fledgling PPP by defending his decision to contest on the Congress symbol.
The Congress is also throwing its lot behind him as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to visit Bathinda to campaign for him. The CPI has also extended its unconditional support to Manpreet.
AAP seems to have supported Manpreet tacitly by fielding Jasraj Singh Jassi, whose candidature was announced late and the campaign is low-profile, though he is expected to get the youth votes.
The poll outcome will also be affected by which way the Dera Sacha Sauda goes.