As Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s cavalcade criss-crossed villages on Tuesday, the buzz in the air was his bête noire Capt Amarinder Singh’s arrival in Lambi for filing his nomination on Wednesday. It reflected in Badal’s speeches too.
“Ae Patiale wale ’te Dilli wale, Lambi nu lawaris samajhde ne; te iss gal daa saade ilaake vich gussa vi hai (These men from Patiala and Delhi think Lambi has no custodian, and the people of this area are angry over it),” Badal said in his public address at Khudian, conveying that both Amarinder, who is also fighting from home seat Patiala, and Aam Aadmi Party candidate Jarnail Singh, who resigned as MLA in Delhi to contest here, are outsiders who do not understand the area.
The crowd of 200-odd at Khudian, mainly poor and landless villagers, silently listened to their CM, who said he was addressing a meeting in this village for the last time in this campaign as he had to remain out of Lambi to campaign in other constituencies too.
A man among the folks just outside the main venue smiled: “Badal has been tied to Lambi, he can’t afford to leave now, because of Captain and AAP.”
At every public meeting, he reminded villagers that Amarinder’s son, Raninder Singh, had lost the 2009 Lok Sabha contest to his daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal by 1.5 lakh votes from Bathinda parliamentary seat, of which Lambi is a part.
Badal did not even once name Jarnail, who filed his nomination papers on Tuesday. In contrast to Jarnail’s lambasting of Badal for the sacrilege incidents of late 2015, the CM skipped the issue and lambasted the Congress over Operation Bluestar and the 1984 carnage.
As AAP and Congress flags dotted some lanes of traditional SAD stronghold in Kakkhawali, Fatta Khera, Midda Khera, Bheeti Wala, Hakkuwala, Warring Khera, Luhara and Killianwali, people there did not open up beyond acknowledging a triangular contest this time. Many gave ‘you guess’ smiles across the road, 500 metres from the CM’s address venue at Bheeti Wala, while a group of AAP workers at a barber shop in Ghumiara preferred to stay away.
Of religion and resentment
At Hakkuwala, Badal recited a hymn: “Raj bina na dharam chale hai, dharam bina sab gale maley hai (There is nothing more worthy than religion, and religion does not spread without political power).”
The SAD has roped in ‘kavishar’ groups (balladeers) who kept crowds intact before Badal’s arrival. They recited tales of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his legendary general Hari Singh Nalwa, comparing him with Badal. At Fatta Khera, saffron flags bearing the ‘khanda’ (Sikh religious symbol) were put on the walls of the local gurdwara. The colour matched with that of the SAD flags with its symbol, scales, on houses in the village.
The CM has to please all. “I know that there is a resentment among people for either their works not being done or for reasons such as not getting due recognition and respect within the party (SAD).”
He added, “But this election is the election of every voter of Lambi. Just like a village unites if even one house is on fire, this is the time to unite as outsiders from Patiala and Delhi are eyeing your constituency,” he said.
At one stop, he honoured a landless farm labourer with a ‘siropa’, acknowledging “lack of implementation of various schemes for the poor”.
At Ghumiara, a man who talked against the Badal regime was taken away from the venue before the CM’s arrival, and made to sit in a faraway ground with cops surrounding him. The National Security Guard (NSG) and Punjab police commandos were on a vigil, not taking any chances after the recent incident of a protester hitting the chief minister with a shoe.