Punjab’s most literate district with the highest sex ratio, Hoshiarpur still carries the tag of backwardness — a pointer to the apathy of successive state governments as well as the indifference of local parliamentarians.
The district was selected for the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme by the UPA government in its second term, but it still grapples with infrastructural and developmental inadequacies.
Now, wannabe MPs are again wooing voters with promises of economic development and job creation, the two major needs of the people.
The main fight is between Congress’ Mohinder Singh Kaypee and BJP’s Vijay Sampla, both new to the constituency. While Kaypee is the sitting MP from Jalandhar, Sampla also belongs to the neighbouring district.
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The ‘outsider’ tag has given ammunition to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Bhagwan Singh Chohan and the Aam Aadmi Party’s Yamini Gomar to question their claims, but the past record shows that people of this constituency have been receptive to ‘stranger’ candidates — Giani Zail Singh, Darbara Singh and Kanshi Ram, to name a few.
By replacing sitting MP and union minister of state for health Santosh Chowdhary, the Congress might have silenced discordant voices in the district unit, which were opposed to her candidature, but it has left Kaypee staring at the spectre of rebellion from those owing allegiance to the minister.
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So far, Kaypee has not been able to convince Chowdhary to join his campaign. Many party leaders are out campaigning for PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa in Gurdaspur or Rajya Sabha member Ambika Soni in Anandpur Sahib. To fill this gap, Kaypee has brought a string of lieutenants from Jalandhar.
Sampla is also set to be hit by BJP’s factionalism. His proximity to Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna, his political mentor, is a sore point for the latter’s adversaries.
Internal problems of the SAD are also going to harm his prospects, particularly in Urmur segment, where ex-minister Balbir Singh Miani is not taking active part in campaigning. In Mukerian, trouble is brewing between SAD and BJP leaders. Still, Sampla hopes to steal a victory by riding on the perceived popularity of party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
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“The fight is not to make Sampla an MP but to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister and bring in an able government at the Centre,” he says. Sampla had shifted to Hoshiarpur and started preparing for the elections more than a year ago, even though his candidature was finalised after much dilly-dallying.
Kaypee, on the other hand, has got much less time to make contact with the people of the constituency spread over three districts Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Gurdaspur.
It being an ‘all-Dalit’ contest, all parties are eyeing the Scheduled Caste (SC) votes, but the traditional SC vote of Congress and the BSP is likely to remain intact.
While the BJP’s campaign is built around Modi, the Congress nominee has pinned hopes on anti-incumbency against the state government. He shies away from trumpeting achievements of the outgoing MP, who has accused him of back-stabbing, and instead harps on the UPA government’s ‘pro-people’ policies. “The country saw unprecedented progress in UPA’s 10-year regime, whereas the SAD-BJP government has only looted the people,” he says. Brushing aside the ‘outsider’ tag, he says he has had close contact with the constituency as PPCC president and state minister.
The SAD ( Amritsar) has fielded retired judicial officer Shamsher Singh Maloya, elder brother of Indira Gandhi’s assassin Beant Singh.