From corridors of power to house of lawmakers - Hindustan Times
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From corridors of power to house of lawmakers

By, , Vishal Joshi
May 07, 2024 09:22 AM IST

They have held positions of power in the government as officials and are now taking the political plunge to represent their home state of Punjab in Parliament. Two retired bureaucrats, a former diplomat and an ex-IPS officer are set to test the political waters by contesting the June 1 LS elections. While Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Parampal Kaur are making their political debut from Amritsar and Bathinda, respectively, on the BJP ticket, Simranjit Singh Mann of the SAD(A) is hoping for a re-election from Sangrur and Dr Amar Singh of the Congress from Fatehgarh Sahib

Seeking re-election from Sangrur, Simranjit Mann bats on Panthic pitch

From corridors of power to house of lawmakers
From corridors of power to house of lawmakers

Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, 78, has been harping on Panthic issues while seeking to get re-elected to Parliament from Sangrur on June 1. (HT)
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, 78, has been harping on Panthic issues while seeking to get re-elected to Parliament from Sangrur on June 1. (HT)

A vocal votary of a separate state of Khalistan for Sikhs, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, 78, has been harping on Panthic issues while seeking to get re-elected to Parliament from Sangrur on June 1.

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A 1967-batch IPS officer who resigned from the Indian Police Service in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984, Mann had been relegated to political oblivion for a decade before he resurrected himself in 2022 by becoming the Sangrur MP after defeating Aam Aadmi Party’s Gurmel Singh by 5,822 votes.

The Sangrur Lok Sabha byelection was necessitated after Bhagwant Mann quit the seat on being elected as the Dhuri MLA and later being appointed Punjab chief minister.

Earlier, Simranjit Mann was elected MP from Tarn Taran in 1989 and from Sangrur in 1999.

Holding roadshows in open modified jeeps surrounded by youngsters, Simranjit plays to the gallery as he accuses the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of polarising society. He blames the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the oppression of minorities in the country. “If the BJP comes to power again, minorities will face a fate akin to what Jews did under Nazi rule,” he tells a gathering.

Mann backs a proactive role by youngsters in Panthic politics, saying that with “all doors of justice shut for Sikhs, the only constitutional way forward is to participate in the elections”.

Firm in his belief of the ideology of Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Mann keeps his portrait in the backdrop whenever he addresses the media. The issues he raises include ensuring the release of Punjabi youngsters implicated in false cases under the NDPS Act and the stringent UAPA besides and the release of Sikh prisoners who have completed their jail terms.

Mann is married to Geetinder Kaur, a sister of Patiala BJP candidate Preneet Kaur, the wife of former Punjab chief minister and now BJP leader Capt Amarinder Singh. The couple have a son and two daughters.

Ex-IAS officer Dr Amar Singh counts on track record in Fatehgarh Sahib

Calm and composed, Congress nominee from Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) constituency, Dr Amar Singh maintains a low profile, but repeatedly raised issues pertaining to farmers and labourers in Parliament.
Calm and composed, Congress nominee from Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) constituency, Dr Amar Singh maintains a low profile, but repeatedly raised issues pertaining to farmers and labourers in Parliament.

Having been instrumental in envisaging the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) and national food security schemes as a joint secretary in the Union government from 2004-10, sitting MP Dr Amar Singh of the Congress is hoping his track record in Parliament will win him the people’s mandate again in Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) constituency.

Calm and composed, Dr Amar Singh maintains a low profile, but repeatedly raised issues pertaining to farmers and labourers in Parliament.

He believes in directly communicating with voters and holds 10-12 small gatherings at the village level daily instead of taking out roadshows or organising large public gatherings.

Dr Amar Singh is up against Aam Aadmi Party candidate Gurpreet Singh GP and Shiromani Akali Dal’s Bikramjit Singh Khalsa. GP had recently switched sides from the Congress to the AAP.

Dr Singh says the Congress will ensure legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission if voted to power. Besides, youngsters will get jobs as nearly 30 lakh vacancies of sanctioned posts at various levels in the central government will be filled. As for his constituency, he says he will continue the crusade for getting international tourism status for Fatehgarh Sahib.

Dr Singh was born into a Dalit family of Ramdasia Sikh origin from Boparai Kalan in Ludhiana district. He was selected for Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) after passing out from Government Medical College, Amritsar. He worked as a doctor at Samrala before he decided to join the IAS in 1981. He was secretary to the Madhya Pradesh chief minister for 10 years before entering politics and going on to win the 2019 parliamentary elections on the Congress ticket.

True to roots, Taranjit Sandhu is BJP’s ambassador in Amritsar

BJP candidate from Amritsar constituency Taranjit Singh Sandhu during campaign . (Sameer Sehgal/HT)
BJP candidate from Amritsar constituency Taranjit Singh Sandhu during campaign . (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, 60, who recently retired as India’s envoy to the US, is back to his roots as BJP’s pick from Amritsar.

The grandson of the gurdwara reforms movement’s legendary leader Teja Singh Samundri - after whom the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) headquarters in the Golden Temple complex is named - and son of Guru Nanak Dev University founder vice-chancellor Bishan Singh has just the right credentials to represent the holy city.

Asked about his campaign priorities, the 1988-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer says, “My focus is the development of Amritsar in terms of income generation, industry, agriculture, commerce and tourism. I’m addressing burning issues such as law and order, drug problem and amenities, too.”

He supports reopening the Attari-Wagah border check-post for international trade and shares his vision of facilitating the export of agri produce of Punjab to Europe through the land border and international airport. He says he will work to improve air connectivity and advocates a US consulate in Amritsar.

The only hurdle in his drive is protests by farmers. He keeps his calm while trying to pacify the protesters with his vision to increase their income.

Sandhu, who studied at The Lawrence School, Sanawar, before graduating in history honours from St Stephen’s College, pursued a master’s degree in international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Since his wife, Reenat, is still serving as an IFS officer, she is not able to campaign for him. Both his children are also abroad. In the absence of his immediate family, his nephew Gurkirat Singh and niece Simran Thind remain by his side in the campaign.

He clocks about 12 hours of canvassing and calls it a day at 10pm. Besides door-to-door campaigns, Sandhu stops at popular eating joints of the city to interact with people besides addressing non-political seminars and religious programmes. Hands folded, he appeals for a chance to ensure the holistic development of the holy city.

Striking chord in Malwai, she invokes Modi, Maluka link

Parampal Kaur Sidhu, 59, who is contesting her debut election on the BJP ticket from her home constituency of Bathinda days after quitting the bureaucracy (HT)
Parampal Kaur Sidhu, 59, who is contesting her debut election on the BJP ticket from her home constituency of Bathinda days after quitting the bureaucracy (HT)

Parampal Kaur Sidhu, 59, who is contesting her debut election on the BJP ticket from her home constituency of Bathinda days after quitting the bureaucracy, relies on the political heft of her in-laws and her field postings as a Punjab-cadre IAS officer to woo voters.

As her campaign gathers pace, Sidhu focuses on the grain markets and semi-urban areas of Bathinda and Mansa districts. She speaks in chaste Malwai but keeps her speeches short. She says the polls to re-elect Narendra Modi are a prelude to the BJP’s efforts to forming the government in Punjab in 2027 as only a double-engine model can expedite development in the border state.

With husband Gurpreet Singh Maluka, a former SAD general secretary and ex-chairperson of the Bathinda zila parishad, by her side, she does not miss mentioning her father-in-law and senior Akali leader Sikander Singh Maluka’s contributions to the region. After all, she is pitted against sitting SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

The Maluka family home in Model Town Phase 3 has been transformed into an election war room. She has hired a Delhi-based agency to boost her political presence on virtual platforms and handle media relations.

An avid reader of non-fiction, Sidhu, who had to leave her PhD in entomology midway after she was selected as Punjab’s first woman block development and panchayat officer (BDPO), has got an opportunity to showcase her oratory skills during the campaign. Having done her schooling and higher studies from Bathinda, she builds on the local connect by highlighting how central welfare schemes are helping villagers. She talks of the Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme benefiting the needy and All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Bathinda catering not only to south Punjab but also adjoining areas in Rajasthan and Haryana. From digital payment platforms to the highway revamp, she lists out Modi’s initiatives.

Sidhu terms the SAD a “family-centric entity”. “The present SAD leadership seeks votes for its family members, while Modi’s vision is of inclusive development,” she adds.

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