Setting the political agenda for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2014, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Shiromiani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership on Thursday declared Harsimrat Kaur Badal party's next parliamentary-poll candidate from Bathinda virtually.
The party even started her election campaign unofficially, expecting mid-term elections in the wake of a hint of instability at the Centre after the Trinamool Congress has withdrawn its support to the union government. Nearly all speakers on the stage targeted Manpreet Singh Badal, president of the People's Party of Punjab, in the wake of reports of his possible candidature from Bathinda in case his party forged an alliance with the Congress.
Addressing a massive gathering at the local grain market, the CM lambasted the Congress-led union government over corruption and others issues and charged it with discriminating against Punjab. The rally organized by irrigation minister and local legislator Jameja Singh Sekhon received a huge response. "Janmeja Singh Sekhon deserves gold medal for the grand rally," said Badal. "I am unable to gather such a big crowd even in my constituency, Lambi."
Sekhon moved to this distant constituency in the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections when his Ferozepur (rural) seat was reserved. Dubbed "outsider" at that time, he now proved his managerial skills by organising a big crowd in the constituency of Harsimrat Kaur Badal. This time, he won the assembly seat by defeating Manpreet Singh Badal and Congress nominee Mangat Rai Bansal.
Badal iterated his claim that the Centre has usurped most of the legitimate powers of states, diluting the federal structure of the country. "It has denied Punjab its share in water and capital." He reminded the gathering of Operation Bluestar (the army's storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 to flush out militants) to target the Congress.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the upbeat mood at the rally suggested that the days of the union government were numbered. "It will collapse under its own weight because of rampant corruption, uncontrolled price rise, and autocratic functioning," he said. Local MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal charged the union government with plundering Rs 4.60 lakh crore of public money in scams such as 2G, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Society, and now coalgate.
Referring to Manpreet Singh Badal, she said "this B team of the Congress" has been taught a lesson by the people of Maur and Gidderbaha (where Manpreet contested in the last assembly elections). SAD vice-president Balwant Singh Ramoowalia engaged the crowd with his trademark humour. He compared the United Progressive Alliance, ruling combination at the Centre, to a sinking boat.
Revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia urged the people of Maur to give a lead of at least 40,000 votes to his sister in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Sekhon caused a flutter when he urged the CM to not give plum posts to the sons or close relatives of ministers and legislators at the cost of hardworking common party workers.
Senior Akali leaders Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Amarjit Singh Sidhu also spoke on the occasion. Education minister Sikander Singh Maluka and former chief parliamentary secretary Jagdeep Singh Nakai were absent.
Maur Mandi to be subdivision
Accepting the demand put forth by local legislator and irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, the chief minister announced that Maur Mandi will be given the status of subdivision in the next cabinet meeting. He said it would also get a new grain market, land mortgage bank and government senior secondary schools for boys and girls.