In the cold weather on Tuesday, for former army chief Gen JJ Singh (retd), the start of his poll campaign in Patiala saw only a lukewarm response from the public and, instead, a rise in temperatures within the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Gen Singh, fielded by the Akalis to fight state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh in the latter’s bastion, Patiala, was piqued at another Amarinder on Tuesday — SAD’s Patiala mayor, Amarinder Singh Bajaj — for allegedly not being sincere towards the campaign duty.
Looking to emulate, and counter, Captain’s style, Gen Singh walked the streets and bazaars of the city. But the problems began early. Scheduled for 2pm, Gen Singh and local leaders reached late by an hour and more at the starting point — enough to make many party workers leave the spot.
During the walk, he shook hands with vendors and shopkeepers, talked to locals, and gave enough photo opportunities to the media following him.
But, fuming at the thin attendance, he fumed at mayor Bajaj and former minister Surjit Singh Kohli, and questioned the delay in arrival of Harpal Juneja, who was also a ticket contender.
“I am here because Sukhbir Badal (deputy chief minister and SAD president) wanted me to contest from here. Do your duty sincerely towards the party!,” he told the local leaders when he found no banner and no flags of the party in the campaign, in which he walked from Sheranwala Gate to Adalat Bazaar.
Sources said that already Gen Singh has told Sukhbir that it would be tough to canvass without the involvement of local leaders. However, local leaders who were also seeking teh ticket, are miffed over the party’s “parachute candidate”.
“We are attending meetings by Gen JJ Singh, but he lacks the acumen of a politician. He may talk tough against Capt Amarinder, but he should be polite towards the party workers,” said a local Akali leader, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, Gen Singh did manage to unite the SAD’s Surjit Kohli and Indermohan Bajaj factions, as both leaders along with workers attended a meeting to draw up his strategy. In a brief interaction with media, Gen Singh said he will try to approach every single voter by a door-to-door campaign. He also asked voters to question Capt Amarinder about his absence from the constituency.