As Congress MLA Arvind Khanna's resignation from his party and the Vidhan Sabha provides an opportunity for ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to get a majority on its own, chief minister already seems in campaign mode for the imminent bypoll in Dhuri. The SAD patron will hold sangat darshan (public meetings) in two phases - from January 21 to 24, and then from January 27 to January 29.
Though the assembly speaker is yet to take a formal call on the resignation by Khanna, who has announced to quit active politics altogether, the CM is set to woo voters with his grievance-redress and grant-distribution programmes covering all 85 villages of the segment. The SAD has failed to win Dhuri in the last two elections, and the exercise is also being seen as a way to zero down on the potential candidate. It would be pertinent, thus, to note who would share the stage with Badal.
As per rules, the bypoll has to be held within six months of the acceptance of the incumbent's resignation.
In the 2012 polls, the SAD's Gobind Singh Kanjla had lost to Khanna. Gaganjit Barnala, who had won on the SAD ticket in 2002, is now with his parents' party, the SAD (Longowal). Worse for the Akalis, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had got a huge lead from Dhuri in the 2014 Lok Sabha election win of Bhagwant Mann from the Sangrur constituency.
If the SAD wins Dhuri, it will hit the magic mark of 59, a simple majority in the assembly of 117, thus ending its dependence technically on an increasingly aggressive ally BJP that has 12 seats. Ties between the partners have been frosty ever since a below-par performance in the LS polls in the state despite a sweep otherwise, for which the BJP has been blaming the SAD and the drug menace allegedly patronised by the Akalis.
The SAD is enthused by the theory that the party wins wherever the CM holds his sangat darshan ahead of polls - for instance, Dasuya, Moga and Talwandi Sabo. In Patiala the CM did not hold any such programme before the bypoll, and the SAD lost to the Congress.
Confirming the CM's visit, deputy commissioner Arshdeep Singh Thind said the final programme was yet to be drawn up as there are a lot of "personal visits" that Badal would make during his tour. The administration is making lists of pending projects and demands, and has been holding camps to enrol beneficiaries of the Atta Dal Scheme by giving out the blue cards required for eligibility. Badal is likely to dole out `5 crore for now.
"Finally we will get some funds," said Gurbaksh Singh, a resident of Dhuri, "Ever since the Congress MLA was elected, this constituency was neglected."
UPSET WITH KHANNA
Khanna's decision to quit has, meanwhile, dismayed the residents of Dhuri, who had voted the 48-year-old businessman-politician with the hope of development. Many say Khanna was hardly visible in the area after he was elected in 2012, and he failed to bring any project. "The news of his resignation has come as shock for many people," said Amarjit Singh, sarpanch of Benra village.
Even medical vans run by his NGO, Umeed Foundation, which were started to provide assistance to people at their doorstep, are not working anymore, according to the sarpanch, who wondered, "Why do they take people for granted?"
Why it's important
If the SAD wins Dhuri, it will hit the magic mark of 59 MLAs, its own majority in the assembly of 117, thus ending dependence technically on an increasingly aggressive ally BJP. Ties between the allies are frosty ever since a below-par performance in the LS polls in the state despite a sweep otherwise. The BJP has been blaming the SAD for that and the primary poll issue of the drug menace.