Finally, some oxygen was breathed into the demoralised Congress workers in the high-profile constituency of Samana with union minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur and her son, Raninder Singh, who unsuccessfully contested last assembly polls from the segment extensively campaigning for the party candidates for the May 19 zila parishad and block samiti polls.
Both are in the constituency for the last three days and have addressed more than four-dozen meetings individually in the only high-profile segment of Patiala, from where rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra is MLA.
Being a traditional Congress stronghold, the ruling SAD-BJP combine is expected to face a stiff challenge in every constituency of Patiala district in the panchayat polls, but all eyes are on Samana segment, as it will be the first actual test of the popularity of Rakhra, who is enjoying a complete say in the district, being the only minister and given his tall stature.
Especially at a time, when Rakhra is facing criticism from different quarters over his "functioning" and is the target of the Congress for heavy "interference" of his businessman brother Charanjeet Rakhra in the routine functioning of the constituency.
Raninder claims good response
"If the elections are conducted in a fair manner, you will witness what is the actual graph of Rakhra. We are getting a great response from people, as they were completely annoyed with the inefficient working of Rakhra. His family, especially brother Charanjeet, who is actually running the show, has made the work easy for us," Raninder told his supporters while addressing a gathering at Bhedpur village.
Preneet Kaur, who is MP from Patiala, has the actual say in Samana and the constituency has been her first choice after her son, Raninder, lost the assembly election to Rakhra. But she alleged that the SAD minister is doing everything to ensure the SAD candidate's win from the Samana segment.
"The SAD has accepted its defeat already as I have not seen so much fear among the people of Punjab for these polls. People are being threatened not to vote for the Congress. At many places, our candidates were forced to withdraw from the field as they were threatened by police," the union minister alleged.
The last-leg campaign by Preneet and Raninder has boosted the Congress morale, though the SAD is leading the charge in the segment because of Rakhra. Experts opined that though the SAD is set sweep the polls, the aggressive campaign by Preneet and Raninder in Samana has, at least, charged up the Congress cadres, who were completely demoralised after defeat in the assembly polls.
Most of the booths in the constituency have been declared sensitive by the administration.