A humble gesture with folded hands to the onlookers at the traffic intersection on Pakhowal Road from Ravneet Singh Bittu, the Lok Sabha candidate of the Congress, was reciprocated with smiles as he commenced his campaign for the day on Monday morning.
As the cavalcade of vehicles followed by his pilot Gypsy hit the dusty roads of Dullon Khurd village at 10.30 am, the first stop out of 20 villages, the eagerly waiting villagers ran to the meeting spot to listen to him.
Amid handshakes and hugs, the Congress candidate touched the feet of the elderly at Bihla village, asking them to shower their blessings on him. High on emotions, a group of old men shared the memories of Bittu’s grandfather, late Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who had visited their village during his tenure.
Switching over from being a “modest young politician” to a “tough competitor”, Bittu, the sitting MP from Anandpur Sahib, pointed to the paradox of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is the highest- salaried CM, being least concerned about senior citizens in the state who were getting a mere ` 250 as old-age pension.
Bittu did not let go of a chance to strike the right chord with his Punjabi dialect as he addressed the elderly as “Bapuji” and “Bebeji” (father and mother).
Engrossed in his canvassing, the Congress candidate forgot to eat anything till 1pm when a call from his wife made him have a homemade parantha roll.
ELEMENT OF HUMOUR
Rural populace at Jassowal, Assi Kalan and Narangwal villages enjoyed the element of humour, an integral part of Bittu’s speech, as he took a dig at the various schemes promised by the SAD in its manifesto. The best was his reference to the Shagun scheme wherein SAD president Sukhbir Badal and patron Parkash Singh Badal had promised an amount of Rs. 31,000 on the marriage of girls from the families of SC/ ST and ex-servicemen. “Na tan nana Parkash Singh Badal aaya te nahi mama Sukhbir Badal aaya shagun den apniya dheeyan nu (Neither did grandfather Parkash Singh Badal nor maternal uncle Sukhbir Badal came to give shagun to our daughters)”, which invited a loud round of applause from the villagers.
Elderly men at Dullo village asked Bittu to look into their condition as having been addicted to poppy husk and opium for over four to five decades, they were not getting it as smack was in circulation. To this he said, “Dasso ki hila kariye ehda, je afeem dode nahin milde, taan bazurg marde ne, dooje paase smack pee ke apne bhai- bete kuch saalan wich mar jange. Majithia ne tan koi banda chhadiya hi nahi (Tell me, what is the solution to this? If they don’t get poppy husk and opium, the elderly die; on the other hand, by consuming smack, our youth would die in some years. Majithia hasn’t left anyone unaffected).”
CONSIDERATE TO PARTY CADRE
Accompanied by Congress (rural) president and former MLA Malkiat Singh Dakha, Bittu adhered to every word uttered by the former. Despite being tired, he obliged a group of agitated young Congress workers by taking a round in the periphery of Assi Kalan village in an open jeep.
However, as an astute politician, he politely pointed out to the swelling number of vehicles in the cavalcade, asking the leaders to campaign in their respective areas. “We have to make up for the lost time and each one of you should campaign like a Lok Sabha candidate,” said Bittu while motivating the workers.
As the time went by and the villages were covered, Bittu instead of showing signs of fatigue became more energetic. The stop-over for lunch at Majri at 2.45 pm consumed extra time but that did not hold Bittu from getting out to meet a group of “new supporters” who had shifted from the SAD to the Congress.
From a brisk walk to a quick jump on to the speeding Innova, Bittu tried everything to cover Kalakh, Mansuran, Shehzaad, Lalton, Jhande and Threekay villages before reaching Ferozepur Road in Ludhiana to meet his city party cadre for another road show through Ghumar Mandi.