Voters of Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, which came into existence in 1951, have elected candidates from various political parties over the decades, including former chief ministers Surjit Singh Barnala and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, besides Balwant Singh Ramoowalia and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
However, the fruits of development still seem to elude this farmer-dominated parliamentary constituency as the traditional issues of skewed sex ratio, poor women’s literacy rate, increasing number of cancer patients, shortage of drinking water, sanitation, far mers’ suicides and poverty are dominating the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Though Sangrur is the biggest wheat-producing district of the state and has also bagged the national award for highest yield per acre, the apathy towards farmers and agricultural labourers has reduced it to a dharna spot of the Malwa region.
Traditionally, Sangrur has witnessed a direct fight between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress as both parties have represented this seat six times each. However, the fledging Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate, comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann, has made it a three-cornered contest this time.
Sitting Congress MP Vijay Inder Singla says he is contesting the election on the basis of the development projects he brought from the Centre, including a 500-bedded hospital and satellite centre of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.
Despite being an outsider, he had been preferred by the people of Sangrur over senior SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa in 2009.
This time, Singla and Dhindsa are facing a tough fight from Mann, who is drawing big crowds through his satire on the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre and the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.
Also, Singla is facing a serious threat from his detractors within the party, forcing him to knock at the door of former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. “How you can vote for the leader of the party (SAD) which has been ruling the state for the past seven years and has done nothing,” argues Singla, addressing a gathering of commission agents in Sunam.
Dhindsa, a Rajya Sabha MP, is facing the heat for not doing much, as people complain, despite “being a big leader of the ruling party”.
However, riding the ‘Narendra Modi wave’, he is hopeful of winning the seat as he says, “Though the fight is with the Congress, we will win as people of Sangrur want to see Modi as the next prime minister and Punjab will have a big say in the next NDA government. Then, we will raise the issues of 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims and farmers.”
Mann is keen to cash in on the criticism of both MPs. He had failed to win the 2012 assembly elections from Lehragaga, but he is out to eat into the traditional vote bank of the Congress and the SAD.
“I am contesting this election on behalf of the people of Sangrur, who have always remained at the receiving end because the traditional parties failed to wipe their tears,” says Mann, talking to Hindustan Times.