Lok Sabha election: Preneet red-faced as gangster joins Congress, shares dais with her
Congress candidate from the Patiala Lok Sabha seat and former Union minister Preneet Kaur was left red-faced after photographs of a notorious gangster joining the party and sharing the stage with her during a rally surfaced on Monday.
Randeep Singh Kharoud, who is facing at least seven cases of attempt to murder, robbery and possessing illegal arms, is seen sitting next to Kaur, the wife of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, at the rally held at Lower Mall Road locality of Patiala on Saturday. Randeep is presently out on bail and claims to be the state chairman of the Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU).
He hails from Baran in Sanaur block of the district and was arrested by the police in 2016. His father is an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) in the Punjab Police.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) on Monday targeted Preneet and her party for allegedly siding with gangsters and using muscle power in the elections.
In a press statement, Preneet defended herself saying she was not aware of the antecedents of Randeep Singh Kharoud. “Our party has zero tolerance to criminals getting into politics. Randeep Singh’s antecedents were brought to my notice and I will ensure that he is thrown out of the party. He was an AAP supporter earlier. He is trying to enter politics by projecting himself as a student and a political activist,” she was quoted in the press release.
A Congress leader said, “Randeep joined the party after Congress’ Sanaur halqa in-charge Harinderpal Singh Harry Mann introduced him to Preneet. Randeep showed his strength with an impressive gathering of the youth at Saturday’s rally. He even addressed the gathering from the stage in the presence of the Congress candidate.”
Harry Mann, who organised Saturday’s rally, defended Randeep’s entry into the party, saying, “The cases registered against Randeep were fallout of the rivalry between the Student Organisation of India (SOI), the SAD’s student wing, and PUSU. Randeep has not been convicted in any case. He belongs to a family of Congress loyalists.”
Surjit Singh Rakhra, the SAD candidate from the Patiala segment, said the incident has exposed the Congress’ nexus with gangsters as the party is garnering support of criminals. “The nefarious design of the Congress to win the election by any means has come to the fore. Is the party banking on such people to organise the campaign of its candidates?” he questioned.
PDA nominee Dr Dharamvira Gandhi said the Congress has stooped to such lows that gangsters are sharing the stage with its candidates. “This is a threat to law and order during the elections. We are afraid that Preneet and her party might use such elements to intimidate the voters,” he said.
Cases he faces
January 2014: Randeep Kharoud along with gangsters Harwinder Singh alias Rinda and Gurpreet Singh Gopi was arrested for attempting to kill then assistant jail superintendent Inderjeet Kahlon in Patiala jail. They are granted bail.
April 2016: He along with Rinda and five others injured three students in firing at Panjab University campus. Police announced a reward of ₹50,000 on him.
May 2016: His named cropped up in a case wherein Rinda along with his aide helped gangster Dilpreet Singh Baba flee from police custody in Ropar.
July 2016: Patiala police arrested him and five other gangsters in cases of robbery, carjacking and illegal possession of arms. Five luxury vehicles, a motorcycle, a revolver and ammunition were recovered from them. He got bail in case two months later.