Lok Sabha Elections 2019: In Fatehgarh Sahib seat, ex-babus talk of experience, humble past
They are former bureaucrats, good friends and now pitted against each other in the political arena. While 1981-batch Madhya Pradesh-cadre retired IAS officer Amar Singh is the Congress candidate for Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) Lok Sabha seat, 1980-batch Punjab-cadre former civil servant Darbara Singh Guru is the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) nominee.
Guru has lost two assembly elections in 2012 and 2017, while it is Amar Singh’s first ever electoral foray. Guru is representing a party that is facing public disenchantment over the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 when the SAD-BJP government was in power, and he is hoping that the ‘third time lucky’ phrase holds true for him.
His opponent - doctor-turned-bureaucrat-turned-politician Amar Singh - is confident that he will sail through his very first political test. And the latter has reasons to believe so. Seven party MLAs out of the nine constituencies that are part of the Lok Sabha segment have Congress MLAs. “All party MLAs are campaigning for me,” says Amar Singh, before beginning his speech at Dangerian village in Fatehgarh assembly segment, accompanied by MLA Kuljit Nagra.
Experience as bureaucrats
Both have similar campaign style – harping on their “unblemished” career as civil servants. They claim having knowledge of how to move the government cogs and wheels to get the works done to serve the people better.
“I am from a very poor family and can feel your pain and needs,” Guru tells the peasants at a village. Amar Singh also rakes up his poor background, telling people that he comes from a family of labourers and lived in a house with a bamboo roof.
During campaigning, the friends don’t forget to bash each other. “Amar Singh has worked out of Punjab in his entire career but I have served the people of Punjab for 32 years and have worked with the CM for ten years,” says Guru at a ‘nukkad’ meeting at Bonkarr Gujran village in Sahnewal constituency, accompanied by lone MLA in the parliamentary segment Sharanjeet Singh Dhillon.
“I have worked with former PM Dr Manmohan Singh in formulating two laws – MNREGA that guarantees you 100 days employment and atta-dal scheme,” says Amar Singh before a responsive gathering. He says that though he worked out of Punjab but his heart used to beat for the state and he always wanted to pay back. “It’s a payback time, and I need your support,” he says.
Amar Singh worked with former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh and later as chairman in Food Corporation of India. He is more patient and emphatic in his speech as compared to docile Guru, who was principal secretary to then Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal till 2012 when he took retirement and joined the SAD.
Both candidates are also raising Panthic issues to woo the voters. “Before forming the government in 2017, Amarinder had taken a vow to end people’s problems but nothing happened,” says Guru. Amar Singh asks people not to forgive SAD-BJP for desecration of the scriptures.
The Caste Factor
Amar Singh is banking on his dominant Ramdasia community in the constituency, which has highest number of SC voters among the 12 other parliamentary segments in the state. Guru is a Mazhabi Sikh which has less voters than Ramdasias. “In 2014, our party fielded a candidate from Bazigar community. Despite being a strong candidate, he lost as the dominant SC community opposed him,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.