The first election meeting is scheduled for 8 am but he is all set to hit the campaign trail by 7.45. As he waits for district Congress president and local MLA Sunder Sham Arora to arrive at his sparsely furnished rented accommodation on Una Road, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Congress candidate from Hoshiarpur, attends a few calls, passes on certain tips to his foot soldiers and has a cup of tea.
Workers start pouring in, one of whom wants that he should accompany him to meet a secret supporter but he asks him to fix up the meeting for the evening. “I don’t want to get late for the meeting,” he clarifies. He says that daily he attends over 10 gatherings in rural areas while evenings are given to interacting with urban voters.
Around 8.30 am, he gets a nod from Arora that everything is in place and they head for Shergarh village in a Fortuner, with the entourage following in other vehicles.
Since his candidature was announced late, Kaypee was left with very little time to reach out to voters. He is depending on local MLAs and halqa in-charges to push up the campaign. His wife, son and family are working overtime to see him through.
At the venue, people are lined up with garlands i n hands. As Kaypee emerges from his vehicle, slogans of ‘Congress zindabad’, ‘Mohinder Singh Kaypee zindabad’ rend the air. Acknowledging the greetings with folded hands, he moves towards the dais. Arora informs him that the village has always been benevolent to the Congress.
Kaypee claims that as education minister he had upgraded 3,300 government schools. “How many schools this state government has upgraded,” he asks and then adds, “Ehna ne school nahin, sharaab de theke upgrade keete nein (The government has upgraded liquor vends, not schools).”
Then looking around at an under-construction building where the meeting was taking place, he says, “Ajj ghar banaana mushkil ho gaya hai. Reta bajri dian keemtan asmaan chhoo rahian ne. Ehna cheezan te mafia da kabzaa hai (It has become difficult to construct a house these days as prices of sand and gravel have skyrocketed. Mafia is controlling the sand gravel business).”
He pauses as audiences applaud and then resumes the tirade against the government. “Kehnde asi malai vargian sadkan bana dittian. Kithe ne eh sadkan? Siraf sarkari channel te hi labh sakdian ne (They say we have laid smooth roads. Where are such roads? These can only be found on a government-sponsored TV channel).”
He winds up his speech with a promise to remain in touch with the locals.
SUPPORT FROM SONI FAMILY
Kaypee’s next stop is Bajwara. The place is shortlisted not due to its historic background but because it belongs to the famed Soni family. Former union minister Ambika Soni, who is herself in fray from the neighbouring Anandpur Sahib constituency, is a voter of this village and enjoys a big clout here.
As soon as the cavalcade halts, a drummer starts beating the drum and organisers rush to garland Kaypee but one of his lieutenants connects him to ‘someone’ and he walks aside to have a talk.
The ‘someone’ is none other than union minister of state for health Santosh Chowdhary, who has so far not joined his election campaign. Back, he lets himself garlanded and led to the stage.
Kaypee falls back on Soni’s name and appeals for similar response for himself in the ensuing elections.
“Like a ‘nawab’, Parkash Singh Badal distributes grants by holding sangat darshans. It is not his money. It is people’s money,” he roars.
There is no personal attack on his rival candidates in any of the speeches he makes in the course of the day. At noon, he halts at a dera at Bassi Ghulam Hussain village and partakes of langar. “I don’t carry food or mineral water with me during the campaign and make good with whatever is offered to me by people,” he says.
Public meetings are over by 10 pm but backroom parleys with family, friends and campaign managers continue till after midnight.
“I don’t get tired as I am used to such hectic schedules. People’s love and affection keeps me going,” he signs off.