Dhindsa faces resistance
Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has to overcome more resistance from within his party Shiromani Akali Dal than his political rivals Congress and Akali Dal (Mann) in the battle for Sangrur Lok Sabha seat of Punjab.
Though there are 11 candidates, the fight is mainly between Dhindsa, Simranjit Singh Mann of Akali Dal (Mann), member of the dissolved Lok Sabha from this constituency, and Congress nominee Arvind Khanna, a Delhi-based businessman.
Dhindsa is facing a strong rebellion from supporters of party veteran Surjit Singh Barnala, now Governor of Andhra Pradesh. Surjit Kaur, wife of Barnala, had reportedly opposed the nomination of the Union Minister accusing him of being responsible for defeat of her husband from this constituency in 1999.
Dhindsa's strained ties with the SAD faction owing allegiance to Barnala family are making him to sweat it out. Though Barnala faction and a few rebel leaders, who were denied party tickets allegedly at Dhindsa's behest in the 2002 Assembly elections are campaigning for the Union Minister but they are not giving wholehearted support.
Barnala had won the seat in 1977 and 1996 besides SAD's Balwant Singh Ramoowalia in 1985. The CPI-Congress nominee Teja Singh had won in 1971, Gurcharan Singh Nihalsinghwala (Congress) won in 1980 and Gurcharan Singh Dadhaoor was victorious in 1992.
The SAD (Mann) nominee Rajdev Singh had won in 1989 and the party repeated the win 1999 when Simranjit Singh Mann emerged victorious.
Factionalism in SAD is the most serious problem for Dhindsa and even the intervention of party chief Parkash Singh Badal hardly succeeded in containing bickerings.
The recent death of SAD veteran G S Tohra, who had a considerable following among voters in Sangrur, is another setback for Dhindsa's efforts to wrest the seat.
Mann is seeking renewal of mandate by lambasting the BJP- led NDA Government at the Centre and the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state for allegedly failing to develop the border state.
Mann is also projecting his accessibility to the electorate and accusing Dhindsa for his dismal performance as a partner in NDA government to press for long pending demands.
He is also banking on his development-oriented performance out of his MPLAD grants and charging Dhindsa with following the dictates of the "Hindutva" (BJP) lobby in Delhi.
Dhindsa's main poll plank is performance of the NDA government and alleged misrule of Amarinder Singh government in Punjab, including withdrawal of sops to farmers and scheduled caste, which were commenced by the SAD-BJP government during its five year rule from 1997.
He contends that during the six-year rule of NDA government the country's prestige has gone up and a new hope and confidence had been generated amongst the people.
Khanna is trying to cash in on the social work done in the constituency by his voluntary organization Umeed Khanna Foundation.
He scoffs at his rivals saying it is very easy to spend government fund but it is difficult to spend from one's own pocket like he is doing.
Khanna points to the health services at the door steps of the under-privileged and weaker sections of the society in more than 500 villages being rendered by Umeed Khanna Foundation.
During his two-year tenure as MLA from Sangrur, he claims to have distributed grants worth Rs four crore from his funds and the Congress government had spent Rs 30 crore for developmental activities in the constituency.
It is not only politics but wheat and 'mandis' (wholesale market) which have come to the forefront in the run upto the polling on May 10 because a large number of voters are enganged in the mandi's selling the produce or purchasing it as the constituency has the distiction of topping in the production of wheat and paddy.
With Mandis and wheat being a priority among the voters, the candidates prefer to interact with the voters either in the markets during the morning trading hours or in the evening by organising meetings in the rural and urban areas.