Gurdaspur LS bypoll: In Langah rape case, Cong counters vendetta charge with ‘Ram Rahim effect’
“Many women are speaking up against sexual assaults by powerful people after the CBI court verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim (last month). The victim’s FIR explains how Langah used his clout as a minister in the Akali government and issued threats to silence her,” Randhawa said.punjab Updated: Oct 01, 2017 11:29 IST
With both the BJP and the ruling Congress having high stakes in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll, the battle is getting murkier. The latest subject of the no-holds-barred campaign is the rape FIR against former minister in the SAD-BJP regime, Akali strongman Sucha Singh Langah, who was being seen as a potential spoiler for the Congress.
Langah, who was convicted in a disproportionate assets case, is no stranger to controversies. But the timing of the rape FIR has raised questions. On why the victim filed the complaint after nine years — the FIR mentions period of crime from January 1, 2009, to September 28, 2017 — Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa, who defeated him in 2007 and again this year, dubbed it as the “Ram Rahim effect”.
“Many women are speaking up against sexual assaults by powerful people after the CBI court verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim (last month). The victim’s FIR explains how Langah used his clout as a minister in the Akali government and issued threats to silence her,” Randhawa said.
The SAD, the BJP’s dominant alliance partner in Punjab, has its eye mainly on the rural vote in the five Jat Sikh-dominated assembly segments of the Lok Sabha seat. The seat is spread over nine segments. For the SAD, this is a chance to give the Congress its first major blow after facing a near-rout in the state polls. It lost no time to go into damage-control after Langah was booked and dropped him like a hot potato. Though the former minister dubbed the case as “premeditated” and “a classic example of political vendetta and witch hunt”, he was made to announce resignation from the SAD core committee, all other party posts and the membership of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
But the damage seems to have been done. The controversy has given the Congress — which has fielded state unit chief Sunil Jakhar, and the AAP’s Maj Gen Suresh Khajuria (retd) a handle against the alliance partners when the bypoll is just 10 days away and Langah’s surrender and follow-up action will continue to dominate headlines.
Attacks in the bypoll had got personal as soon as the BJP named Swaran Salaria as its candidate. Both the Congress and the AAP were quick to target the BJP’s pick as a “rape accused” citing a complaint against him by a Mumbai-based air-hostess in December 2014. After the leaders, party workers took the war to social media by circulating the rape complaint — that had later been withdrawn by the woman — on WhatsApp and Facebook. On Thursday, BJP stat unit chief Vijay Sampla had targeted the Swiss in-laws of the Congress nominee, saying that people would need to travel to Switzerland to meet him if he is elected.