Six months ago when 34-year-old Satbir Singh Khatra was made the halqa in-charge of Patiala Rural, replacing Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, the daughter of Akali stalwart late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, it was clear that the winds of change had begun to blow in the jathedar-driven party.
A lawyer-cum-MBA, Satbir is now SAD’s candidate from Patiala Rural fighting Congress biggie Brahm Mohindra, who has not lost this seat since 2007 (earlier called Samana), and Aam Aadmi Party’s 40-year-old farmer Karanvir Singh Tiwana.
Son of a Punjab Police DIG, Ranbir Singh Khatra, Satbir got into politics five years ago. He contested as an independent candidate from this seat in 2012 assembly polls, mustering nearly 21,000 votes. He was running an ITI and a school, which he left eight years ago to start an NGO, Patiala Welfare Society, now a well-known entity in the area.
- Name: Satbir Singh Khatra
- Age: 34
- Party: SAD
- Poll Quotient: Son of a serving IPS officer, social work through NGO; secured nearly 21,000 votes as an independent candidate in the last elections.
- Education: LLB, MBA
- By the way: Wants to travel around the world
“The society works as the link between the government and the people. We help people file applications and get benefits of government schemes. Besides, we work with the youth by helping them set up kabaddi and wrestling clubs,” he says.
It is no wonder that continuing with the same tradition, Khatra is surrounded by a retinue of youngsters planning his day, his meetings and schedule while he tends to attend to those gathered in his office on a typical day of campaigning.
“Patiala Congress da qila hai te Akaliyan ne fateh karna hai” (Patiala is Congress’ fort and Akalis will take control of it)
“Eight years of dealing with public has taught me that I should be down to earth, patient and a very good listener. But at the same time, I try to be decisive enough for people to trust my word and while listening to people, be discreet enough not to act on gossip.”
The seat, however, is a tough challenge for the Young Turk. The Patiala Rural constituency was carved out of parts of Samana, Nabha and Amloh constituencies. Also, it has a larger area falling within the city and that is where Khatra is putting in most of his efforts. “The constituency is a Congress fort. In 2012, I had overshot Bram Mohindra by over 3,000 votes in the villages. It is the urban area that is a challenge and I have accepted it,” he says.
This MBA has also done some smart calculations. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, AAP candidate Dr Dharamvira Gandhi was polled over 55,000 votes with Congress coming in second and SAD third in this assembly segment. “This time, there is no AAP presence in this constituency. The AAP has suspended the MP from the party and no one has tended to this area, while Brahm Mohindra has been absent from the constituency. People are looking for change and this time, I will give them an alternative,” he says.
Being the son of a cop who had remained the SSP of Patiala, Satbir claims it will work in his favour. “My father has earned a lot of goodwill when he served here. And everyone knows his nature. He is a baptised Sikh. Our whole family is of vegetarians and teetotallers. There is nothing that the opponents can say against me,” he adds.
His dream is to make his constituency the hub of sports. “Patiala has the best sports facilities. I have set up 150 youth clubs, 70 gymnasiums and distributed sports kits among thousands of youngsters. My focus has been on the youth. They are Punjab’s future. It is a shame that the opposition calls our youth drug addicts.”
FRESH FACES IN THE FRAY: THIRD OF 13 PART SERIES
NEXT: DAMAN THIND BAJWA