The event to lay foundation stone for an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal turned out to be a dull affair. The low turnout of people was not less than an embarrassment for the Akali Dal at state BJP chief Vijay Sampla’s native village, Sofi, which falls under the Jalandhar Cantonment assembly segment. Sampla, who started his political career as sarpanch of this village, was also present on the occasion.
The event was aimed at giving fillip to Akali candidate, Sarabjeet Singh Makkar, from the seat. However, not more than 300 people turned up for the event even as seating arrangements were made for 1,800. A few minutes before the arrival of the SAD chief, government school students, ITI students from Bhogpur and Jalandhar were shifted to the venue.
Many local leaders, including SAD ‘s Jalandhar (urban) chief Gurcharan Channi, SGPC members Paramjit Raipur and Kulwant Manna and senior deputy mayor in Jalandhar civic body Kamaljeet Bhatia, had given a call to boycott the function. The said leaders had called Makkar a ‘land grabber.’
Makkar said the function was organised in haste and the deputy CM’s confirmation to attend the event came on Tuesday only. However, as per government press note issued on Sunday, the information about the event was already given. Independent councillor Iqbal Singh Dhindsa and estranged son of former Congress minister Avtar Henry, Gurjit Sanghera, joined the Akali Dal on Thursday in the presence of Sukhbir.
‘Makkar best candidate for Cantonment ’
In his speech, Sukhbir termed Makkar as the best available candidate for the seat, terming him leader with ‘guts and pushing skills’. “There were other leaders also, but I chose Makkar because as an MLA from Adampur, he was successful in carrying out developmental works. If he wins from Cantonment, I will send two trucks of money in the new currency for development,” Sukhbir said. Later, when asked about the ‘land grabbing’ charges levelled against Makkar by the SAD leaders, the deputy CM did not reply. “No, there is nothing like that. All the disgruntled leaders will be brought to the mainstream very soon,” he said.