With SAD-BJP candidate Gobind Singh Longowal having won the Dhuri bypoll, rummaging through the debris left behind, one stumbles upon traces of what went on outside the pale of the formal election campaign.
This remained out of even media focus. Yet, these goings-on kept the administration on its toes, given the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the constituency. At any given time, of the five VVIPs who campaigned in the constituency, one or two of them were present for electioneering. Their security and protection kept the police on alert.
Sangrur SSP MS Sidhu recalls the other “rallies”, which, by and large, went unnoticed for obvious reasons, while electioneering was in full swing. Sidhu says that for almost a month, beginning March 10, Dhuri was saturated with employees’ organisations and unions which held protest demonstrations and rallies, all wanting to draw attention on their demands and air their grievances, given the fact that the ruling political leadership was virtually camping there. There were 25 different organisations seeking to hog the limelight and draw the attention of the ruling party as well as the opposition leaders.
Data compiled by the district police reveal that different organisations held as many as 104 protest rallies, while political parties held 155 poll-related rallies, addressed by Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Capt Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa. The senior Badal led the pack with 58 rallies, followed by Sukhbir with 42. While Bajwa led the Congress campaign with 30 rallies, he was followed by Bhattal (15) and Amarinder (10).
The largest protest was by Sanjhi Mulazim Sangharsh Committee with 5,500 supporters participating. “Yet no VIP convoy was caught in a jam or any political rally was disturbed.” One Dilraj Singh of Bardwal alone held 23 rallies with 50-60 supporters, followed by ETT Pass Berozgar Union, which held 22 rallies. Sixteen rallies were held by Buchadkhana Action Committee of Ghanori Kalan.
Sidhu says the joint rally by Teachers’ Union, SSA Teachers Union, Berozgar Multipurpose Union and Mid-Day Meal
Workers’ Union in Dhuri did not affect the normal life, though a change in vehicular traffic route was necessitated. It goes to the credit of rally holders for maintaining order while airing their grievances.
Ironically, both the ruling and the opposition dispensations chose to ignore these protests.