Adaptable. That’s how he describes himself. At 26, Angad Singh Saini, the youngest Congress candidate in the fray, is certainly adapting well to the rigours of campaigning. For one, he’s shed his jeans and t-shirt for a spotless white kurta-pyjama. And then, he’s mastered the art of touching feet, the sure shot way to a Punjabi elders’ heart.
The gathering at Shahpur Pattan village is all salt-and-pepper, and it’s after diving at two-score feet that the 6’2” former national-level shooter finally sits down. The young businessman is no stranger to politics— his mother Guriqbal Kaur is the sitting MLA from Nawanshahr and his father, late Parkash Singh, had won the seat in 2002. His father’s uncle Dilbagh Singh bagged the seat a record six times. And it’s this legacy that Angad wants to claim. “People have such fond memories of him. I want to be like my grandfather and father.”
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But the fight for the family legacy is tough indeed, with his uncle and Dilbagh Singh’s son Charanjit Singh Channi pitted against him as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate. Channi joined the AAP after being denied the ticket by the Congress. “It’s unfortunate that the person who should have guided me is fighting against me,” Angad rues. The gloves come off pretty quickly at the relay meetings where one speaker after the other slams the “turncoat” Channi, who’s changed parties thrice in the past. “How is he an aam aadmi, when like me he was also born into a reputed family,” asks Angad, who likes to stand hand clasped in front with the Tag Heuer watch flashing in the sun.
“Punjab di jawani te kisani, Akaliyaan ne dono hi khatam kar diti.”
Angad says he was sure of getting the ticket, especially after his showing during state party chief Captain Amarinder Singh’s visit to San Francisco in California in May 2016. “I single-handedly arranged a gathering of 1,200 on a weekday,” recounts Angad, who made four trips to North America last year. Now, he is banking on NRIs to shore up his campaign.
Elected Nawanshahr Youth Congress general secretary in 2008 and its president in 2012, Angad displays his political savoir fare as he cautions voters against “takseem di siyasat” (politics of division). “You wanted a change last time, so you voted for a third front, but you merely ended up dividing votes and getting Akalis back. So vote wisely,” he says.
Drugs, corruption and lack of development, he says, are the three main poll issues. Citing development works undertaken by his father, Angad says he wanted to copy paste the US here — he mentions then deputy commissioner Krishan Kumar. “My father brought him here and ensured that he completed his term. I will also ensure a corruption-free administration.”
- Name: Angad Singh Saini
- Age: 26
- Constituency: Nawanshahr
- Party: Congress
- Education: Bachelor of business administration
- Poll quotient: From the family of late Dilbagh Singh, who won the Nawanshahr seat six times. Mother Guriqbal Kaur is the sitting MLA
- By the way: Likes his Tag Heuer watch
Youths, he agrees, hold the key to these elections. That’s why he is optimistic. “I’ve been interacting with them regularly,” he says, telling you about the cricket tourney he arranged this year for 150-plus teams in the district. His poll team is certainly young, with his classmates from Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, manning the social media. “We do a lot of brainstorming on which update or photo to take,” says Siddharth Bhutani, who is here from Mumbai, and travels in the second Fortuner in Angad’s trail.
With three elder sisters mothering him—the eldest is 14 years older—his was a cushy childhood. Life, he says, was a breeze until 2007 when his father lost elections and was diagnosed with cancer. “It was heartbreaking to see him go. We tried every treatment, visited every holy place but he left us in 2010,” he recounts, telling you how the grief made him man up.
Today, he tries to be as disciplined as his father, keeping a 6-to-11 schedule. Running is his daily fix. It’s thanks to it that this self-confessed foodie lost 15 kilos last year. Now, in the campaign mode, he hopes to lose some more and gain a seat.
In Nawanshahr, at the Baradari Gardens, a group of elderly walkers smile when you mention him. “His mother merely promised and never delivered, but he’s so young. And you know he’s got this endearing habit of diving for the feet,” chuckles Mohinder Pal. A group of women at his native Saloh village are less charitable. “His mother never showed up after the win, I wonder if he will be any different,” fumes one.
Angad has a ready retort: “I am beginning my life, give me a chance. Kick me out if I don’t perform”.
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