This is no ordinary Punjab village. Situated on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur road, it has palatial houses and a private college that boasts of foreign students. KNS Kang, who heads the PCTE group of institutes, claims it ranks second among all private business schools in return on investment and ninth when even IIMs and IITs are counted.
The “return on investment” has helped Kang build a palatial bungalow in the village. It has a swimming pool and acres of greens. Kang plays host to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal during his four-day Punjab outing, as he sets his party’s “house in order”.
Students from Kang’s hospitality college — one of the four institutes he runs in Ludhiana — are catering to the AAP’s army of leaders and volunteers. The only glimpse of the luxurious inside of this house surrounded by imposing walls is offered when its huge gates open for letting in the SUVs of “aam aadmi” candidates. “The place was chosen for security reasons,” a party volunteer whispers.
You can’t miss the “VIP air” around the candidates. Talwandi Sabo contender Baljinder Kaur — also AAP women’s wing president — breezes through the police cordon in a swanky SUV.
The village falls in the Dakha assembly constituency of high-profile candidate HS Phoolka, who also arrives late at the venue where Kejriwal is meeting all 32 candidates announced, so far, most of whom face growing dissent.
Two farmers from Dakha’s Chhajjawal village who came to meet Phoolka send in a letter through a volunteer. For them, the recent controversies against the AAP are just “plants” by the rival parties. “Our village gave Phoolka a lead of 997 votes in his 2014 Lok Sabha contest from Ludhiana. He helped us move the Punjab and Haryana high court against an Akali sarpanch, Swaran Singh, who had dug 24-foot-deep illegal sand pits. Now he (Phoolka) will get 1,500 of the village’s 1,600 votes,” said a farmer. Both are Ravidassia Dalits and claim that the party speaks for their rights. Dakha has an Akali MLA, Manpreet Ayali.
The presence of thousands of supporters at the Ludhiana railway station to greet Kejriwal as he arrived from Delhi showed that he still strikes a chord in Punjab. A motorcade including cars to SUVs followed him to Jhande village. Is he an outsider? Not to Punjabis!