It’s a contest long thought to be over, but before the campaigning for the assembly byelection closed at 5 pm on Thursday here, the intensity of the final effort to woo the voters suggested there’s still something to play for on Saturday (February 13).
The Khadoor Sahib seat had fallen vacant when Congress legislator Ramanjit Singh Sikki had resigned in protest against the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Baath village in the segment. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had skipped the byelection to be able to concentrate on the state elections of 2017. Since it expected the ruling party to misuse its power, it said contesting would be futile.
The Congress pulled out of the race on the final day of nomination after trying in vain for many days to convince Sikki to contest. Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh said the sacrilege issue, on which Sikki had resigned, was still unresolved and the state government had not arrested the culprits.
With both major threats out of the picture, Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Ravinder Singh Brahmpura, son of Akali stalwart and member of Parilament (MP) Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, is up against just six lightweights — five independents and one is from the Bahujan Samaj Party (Ambedkar) — of which only Congress rebel Bhupinder Singh Bittu and former AAP state convener Sumail Singh Sidhu can put up any serious fight.
The junior Brahmpura, who is also Tarn Taran district planning committee chairman, is first-time contestant but not new to politics. He has managed the his father’s campaigns in the previous three assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. Sensing an easy victory, the ruling party has shifted focus to increasing the voter turnout and triumph by a wide margin. Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal wants the SAD to win by at least 1 lakh votes. On the last day of the campaign, he addressed many meetings in different villages of the constituency, everywhere asking for a record participation and support.
Sikki, who has considerable influence in the constituency, has called upon voters to boycott the election over the sacrilege issue.
Khadoor Sahib market committee chairman Bhupinder Singh Bittu, who has been distributing grants from the local area development fund of Rajya Sabha member Manohar Singh Gill, has pulled impressive crowds at different villages.