On his electoral debut in 2012, former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh, who resigned as Punjab’s director of sports to jump into the political arena, won after barely 15 days of campaigning. On the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket, he defeated Congress’ sitting MLA Jagbir Singh Brar. This time, Pargat is contesting on the Congress ticket, and, as his candidature was announced on January 18, again he got barely two weeks to voting day.
But since he is in fray as the sitting MLA is he at an advantage? He says, “Last time, I got the benefit of star value. But this is the second election, and the celebrity factor wouldn’t work. Now, I am not an Olympian skipper but the MLA of my constituency. So, before casting their vote, people will only analyse what I did in five years as their elected representative.”
Pargat had ended up at loggerheads with the SAD-BJP government over setting up Doaba region’s solid waste management plant in Jalandhar Cantonment constituency area.
Cashing in on his stand on the waste plant, Pargat never forgets to give the issue prominence in his speech. “Had the waste management plant been established here, forget about the current generation, it would have had a negative impact on future generations too. The entire area would have been in a mess as around 400 truckloads of waste would have come daily from the entire Doaba area. Instead of this, the government should have thought of setting up an industry that would have generated jobs for the youth,” says Pargat in Salalpur village.
He explains his switch of allegiance too: “It was my mistake that I joined the Akalis. But I was new and you all know I had no choice; how I was pushed into electoral politics. Now, I have seen the AAP too from close quarters and they too are making blunders in such a short time of existence in the state. So, by analysing all parities I came to the conclusion that Congress is the best bet for the people of Punjab.”
The constituency is a combination of rural and urban with around 60 villages.
Pargat, who is credited with reviving hockey in Jalandhar as well as in Punjab during his tenure as director of sports, tells the people to talk to relatives in other constituencies too and convince them to vote for the Congress, “so that our party forms the next government”.
Taking a dig at AAP leader Bhagwant Mann, Pargat says, “People enjoy listening to his jokes, but jokes wouldn’t generate jobs or solve problems. And the people of Punjab know it very well.”
But is he facing difficulty in convincing people about his switch and that this time the governance would be different? “The oppositions is spreading rumours that if I win the same local Akali leaders will be in power. But I can’t do much about these rumours. People have to understand that I left the SAD over principles, and I will stick to those principles,” he says.
About the reported AAP undercurrent, especially among the youth, Pargat makes a special reference to the young brigade standing in his public gathering that they should talk to their friends who are attracted towards the AAP.
He tells HT: “I call them (AAP) ‘Whatsapp group’, as they are very active on social media. And, at times, what is circulating on social media is not true. We can’t deny the AAP presence, but hopefully we will be able to pacify the youth and make them vote for us.”