Baldev Singh Khaira, 35, says he’d never thought he would join politics. He enjoyed being in the business of education, and playing the backroom boy for politicians from the Phillaur (reserved) seat. But, increasingly, he felt “used”. That’s when he threw his hat in the zila parishad poll ring and won a seat.
Today he rubs his hands with glee as he talks about the work he claims to have accomplished in Phillaur after joining the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in July last year. “We used Rs 35 crore released by the deputy chief minister, and worked in areas that had never seen development before,” says Khaira, who fought and lost the last assembly polls as a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate and finished a close third. Avinash Chander won the seat for the SAD in 2012, and he has recently left the party; while Santokh Singh Chaudhary of the Congress finished second.
- Baldev Singh Khaira, 35
- Phillaur (SC), SAD
- Education: BA, wife Bhavna Khosla Khaira is MBA
- Poll quotient: SAD Dalit face of Phillaur; also holds sangat darshans
- By the way: Enjoys being escorted by his two gunmen
Khaira says he joined the SAD because he is impressed with their development plank. Among the others fighting for the seat this time are former state BSP chief Avtar Singh Karimpuri.
Khaira’s supporters tell you how he wrested the Phillaur ticket from veteran Akali leaders by dint of his work. He attributes it to the fact that he is a local. “I am born and brought up here. My team is full of locals unlike others who are imports from Jalandhar or take orders from Delhi. ”
His slogan, ‘Mera halka, Mera parivar’ (my constituency, my family), also embodies this spirit. As does his daily sangat darshan (public meet) at 7 in the morning where, Khaira claims, he receives 400 people every day.
“Bahar waleyan nu wapas bhejo, te apni jagah dikha do (Send back the outsiders and show them their place).”
These numbers are evident at Ganna village, adopted by Santokh Singh Chaudhary, who is now MP from Jalandhar. Escorted by gunmen and local leaders, Khaira lists the various welfare schemes of the Akali government to woo voters. “Congress did no development but attacked the Golden Temple. Akalis beautified it. Give me a chance, and I will bring you all the benefits of development,” he thunders, urging the people to show “outsiders” their place.
Khaira dismisses the issue of drug abuse, saying it’s being blown out of proportion. “This constituency has so many spiritual places and deras that youngsters steer clear of drugs.” He claims that being a core committee member of Youth Akali Dal he enjoys a connect with youngsters. “Also, it helps to be an educationist,” adds Khaira, who started with an Aptech computer centre and now runs a centre of Punjab Technical University (PTU). He also shrugs off fears of anti-incumbency. “The development work in the constituency will cancel it out.”
Khaira is banking also on intensive campaigning by his family. His brother is going door to door and so is his wife, Bhavna Khosla Khaira. Taking a lunch break at Masaani village with her sister and sister-in-law in tow, Bhavna is all aglow in orange as she heaps praises on her husband. “He was a businessman when I met him, and a politician when I married him.” It took eight years for her parents, well-known industrialists of Phillaur, to reconcile to the fact that their daughter wanted to marry out of caste. Bhavna says the marriage has turned her into a social worker. “I know he will be an MLA, but I want him to be a cabinet minister.”
Khaira, who winds up his day an hour after midnight, rues that he finds little time for his daily dose of meditation or for his two children, son Ryan, 6, and daughter Gaurika, 1. “My daughter is clearly annoyed with me; she misses us,” he smiles, showing her photo. “You can’t imagine how much I’ve begun to value ekaant (peace and quiet),” he sighs as he prepares for another meeting.
He also misses driving fast cars, Lexus being his dream drive; and watching Hindi movies. He confesses he is hugely inspired by the movie ‘Nayak’ in which Anil Kapoor is made CM for a day. “Give our government five years and I will work so hard in my constituency that I won’t need to campaign at all. You know it is very important for people like us to win,” he rubs his hands, again.
A little farther, on the outskirts of Phillaur, a family of shopkeepers points to a broken pipe on the roadside, and tells you how nothing has changed for them over the years. “We’ve heard of Khaira, but he is yet to visit us. Let’s see,” shrugs an old woman.
FRESH FACES IN THE FRAY:SECOND OF 13 PART SERIES
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