Raninder Singh “Tikku” has not returned to the battleground where he lost badly during the assembly elections, which leaves his mother and former Union minister of state for external affairs, Preneet Kaur, to keep the party in the fight in the municipal committee polls.
Raninder left Samana after quick meetings with a few candidates and without joining the campaign, promising to be back on the voting day; this when the Congress army is in deep waters. Ever since he got beaten in the assembly contest, his visits to Samana have been rare and customary. He is missing from election scene when Akali cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra is working overtime in the constituency to go for a clean sweep. The Congressmen’s morale has hit a low.
In Samana, the ruling alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made the absence of the royal scion a major election issue. “Don’t trust the Congress and the royal family,” Rakhra includes in his speech. “Raninder never returned to Samana after the Vidhan Sabha battle.”
During the assembly elections, the royal family was everywhere, assuring voters it was here to stay. “Tell me, did you meet any of them after the election?” Rakhra asked the voting public. The Congress camp is so demoralised that one candidate even withdrew from the fight to let his Akali rival win unopposed.
The absence of Tikku is baffling the local Congressmen. Requesting anonymity, one of them said Raninder had never adopted this constituency. “After the 2012 defeat, he never made regular visits. Many party workers are disillusioned. It was difficult to find the candidates,” he said, a fact that even Preneet Kaur accepted, even though she also claimed that it was thanks to Raninder that the Congress had managed to field candidates.
However, it is she who is keeping tabs on the campaigning in the constituency and spending time with the workers. “Don’t make the absence of Raninder an issue. He is not a legislator; he has other things to do, as he is president of the Indian Rifle Association that has brought the country maximum medals. He was here for two days and now has left for New Delhi on account of pressing engagements,” said the former Union minister.
She said that from February 21, she would camp at Samana and ensure that Raninder was by her side.