The erstwhile Patiala royals are fighting the same war, from different battlefields. The country’s only MP-MLA couple contesting the Lok Sabha elections — former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh, 72, and his wife, union minister Preneet Kaur, 69 — for the first time are contenders in the same election, running a high-stakes poll campaign without each other’s fulltime participation.
In what had become a family tradition, Amarinder had been contesting state elections while Preneet made it to the Parliament three times in a row. Busy campaigning in Amritsar, Amarinder addressed a customary public meeting in Patiala for Preneet late Sunday evening.
Despite sharing the trappings of royalty and politics, there is little in common between the couple, who will complete 50 years of matrimony this year. The contrasts are visible soon as the VIP cavalcade of Amarinder arrives.
As people jostle to get pass his Z-level security to extend their wishes, the “maharani” is seen waiting on the stage sans any security paraphernalia and their daughter, Jai Kaur, is standing outside the security ring among the people holding the Congress flag.
Referring to him as "Maharaja Amarinder Singh ji", Preneet tells people that he has come especially from Amritsar to address the rally. "Today, I will not speak much as you are all here to hear him speak. I will let you judge me by my 15 years of work," she says.
Amarinder addresses her as "our representative from Patiala" and asks his people to defend her bastion while he ambushes BJP’s Arun Jaitley in Amritsar.
Amarinder is flamboyant and aggressive. Preneet is subtle and has a ‘commoner’ touch. Though he denies being inaccessible, in Amarinder’s own words, he cannot match Preneet who goes to each and every function of her workers and voters.
The people connect, Preneet says, comes naturally as she has been meeting people all her life. "I started with social work as part of the Red Cross before foraying into politics. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. He may have some strengths that I don’t."
Asked about the contrasts between them, Amarinder speaks of temperament: "She works herself up over something, but I don’t. I take a decision and then I do not bother too much about the outcome."
But Preneet would rather speak on how they complement each other. "The people of Patiala connect to us not for the royalty factor, but due to our love for them. His candidature has boosted the morale of party workers across Punjab. But I will certainly feel his absence from Patiala."
Amarinder is not worried by the family managing two forts: "Preneet is hard-working. She and our children (daughter Jai Kaur and son Raninder Singh) will manage the campaign in Patiala. As for Amritsar, I am enough for Jaitley."