In a political tactic to divide votes in Bathinda, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has apparently put up an independent candidate who is a namesake of Manpreet Singh Badal, the Congress-People's Party of Punjab (PPP) nominee pitted against SAD's sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
This other 'Manpreet Singh', 34, son of Gurdev Singh, a resident of Badal village under Lambi assembly constituency, which is the part of Bathinda parliamentary constituency, filed his nomination papers on Wednesday as an independent candidate. Lambi is represented by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and Badal village is the native village of the Badal family that uses it as a suffix.
The SAD's move to create confusion among voters was clear as Pawanpreet Singh alias Bobby Badal was in the office of the additional district election officer Rajeev Prashar as Manpreet Singh filed his papers; and Bobby accompanied the man out of the office.
Bobby is a cousin of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal and has been campaigning for Sukhbir's wife Harsimrat.
He is seen driving Sukhbir's car at campaign programmes, like in Ganapati Enclave in Bathinda on March 26.
To further ensure that this move creates puzzlement among voters, this independent candidate has submitted an application to the Election Commission (EC), asking to use the suffix Badal to his name. "I am filing nomination papers as an independent candidate. I am better known by the name of Manpreet Singh Badal in the area so I request you to add the name of my village Badal behind my name in the electronic voting machines," he has requested.
Even when we asked his name, he said it was 'Manpreet Singh Badal'; but he denied that the SAD had made him contest.
Meanwhile, Congress-PPP candidate Manpreet Singh Badal, when asked about it, said the move "reflects the panic and desperation in the SAD".
Harsimrat could not be contacted despite attempts.
Manpreet Singh, who deposited Rs 25,000 as security deposit to contest the election as an independent candidate from Bathinda parliamentary constituency has only Rs 50,000 cash-in-hand while his wife has Rs 10, 000. As per the affidavit filed by him with the nomination form, the candidate and his wife neither own any agricultural or non-agricultural land nor any commercial building. He only owns a residential house in Badal village over 1,000 square feet area which has a market value of Rs 5 lakh. He owns jewellery worth Rs 30,000 while his wife owns jewellery worth Rs 1.50 lakh. He was the only candidate to file nomination papers from Bathinda on the first day of filing of nominations.