‘Hindu card’: Cornered by rape charges, BJP piggybacks as Akalis go for the kill | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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‘Hindu card’: Cornered by rape charges, BJP piggybacks as Akalis go for the kill

Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll: Sukhbir leads charge by camping in Gurdaspur; hardsells Salaria’s Hindu credentials as ‘a Rajput with a Saini wife and son married in a Mahajan family’

punjab Updated: Oct 07, 2017 11:44 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Dera Baba Nanak/Qadian
Hindu card,rape charges,BJP
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal addressing an election rally at Dhariwal in Gurdaspur on Thursday.(HT Photo)

Cornered by sleaze after the rape charge and video against former Akali minister, Sucha Singh Langah, the Akalis have decided to go on the offensive for the October 11 bypoll for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, and the BJP is riding piggyback on its ally.

As if the Langah video wasn’t enough, on Thursday, a woman who had filed a rape complaint against BJP candidate Swaran Singh Salaria in Mumbai High Court, moved the Supreme Court and put their intimate pictures on social media.

The Akalis, who contested five out of nine assembly segments in Gurdaspur in February polls but won only Batala, are now bullish.

In power, the Congress is using the same tricks as Akalis. Days ahead of the assembly elections in February, a tell-all video had surfaced about Akali MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, whose son, Davinder Ghubaya, had switched over to Congress to contest the Fazilka seat. The video was seen as a handiwork of the Akalis to embarrass their own MP, but Davinder went on to win the seat.

The Akalis, who contested five out of nine assembly segments in Gurdaspur in February polls but won only Batala, are now bullish. Since October 1, Sukhbir is himself leading the charge, covering one constituency a day, and will be on the road till October 9, the day the campaigning comes to an end.

He has deputed former ministers, including brother-in-law Bikram Majithia, on all seats. Majithia has been deployed at Langah’s seat of Dera Baba Nanak, in an open challenge to Congress MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa.

At his rallies, Sukhbir hardsells Salaria while unabashedly playing the Hindu card. “He is a Rajput, with a Saini wife and his son is married into a Mahajan family (all three are the dominant castes among the Hindus here). He is also an ex-servicemen and businessman. He is a local and known to people. He is a complete package,” he says at a rally at Kahnuwan in Qadian assembly segment on Thursday.

Using his slapstick humour, he says, “Sadi ralliyan da rush dekh ke, Congressi gush kha gaye (seeing the crowds at our rallies, Congressmen are fainting). It is the first time that a new government is facing anti-incumbency after just six months in power. They have cheated you by first making false poll promises. Now brace for higher taxes and power bills after the bypoll results,” he says.

He lends much-needed lung power to Salaria, whose voice has gone hoarse due to election speeches. In his short speech, Salaria begins by reminding the voters of his humble beginnings. “I studied in a government school here among you. The Congress candidate does not even know the names of any village here. I will work like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and you will gain by having a friendly government at the Centre,” he says.

As his cavalcade of SUVs under Z-plus security heads back to Amritsar after winding up the day’s campaign, Sukhbir calls the Langah case a “police operation”.

Citing his sources in the police, he says, “The police were involved in making of the video and uploading it on social media. The ruling party can use police and officials. They are also slapping false cases on our sarpanches and poll agents. We don’t want to defend Langah and I announced his expulsion on the very first day. I also won’t say it did not damage us. But the cases betray Congress nervousness,” he says.

As his cavalcade of SUVs under Z-plus security heads back to Amritsar after winding up the day’s campaign, Sukhbir calls the Langah case a ‘police operation’.

When reminded that Congress was only following in Akali footsteps, be it false cases or sleazy poll-time videos, the SAD chief said he was not behind the video on Ghubaya. “I don’t believe in personal attacks. We too have such ammunition against Congress leaders. But we do not want to stoop to low-level politics,” he asserted.

Vote for safety of your women: Cong

In its rallies, the Congress cites the two rape cases to warn voters. “Langah na sucha, na sacha si (he was neither pious not truthful). There is a rape case against Salaria too. Don’t elect leaders under whom your own daughters, mothers and sisters are not safe,” Sunil Jakhar, Congress candidate and state party chief tells voters in villages of Dera Baba Nanak on Thursday.

In the driving seat, MLA Randhawa denies the Congress “hand” in the rape complaint. “The victim spoke up as Langah was trying to usurp her property,” he says.

Sampla takes Sukhbir’s lead

Despite cadre vote in Pathankot’s three assembly seats and Dina Nagar, the BJP campaign in the bypoll seems sluggish. The party won just Sujanpur out of four seats it contested. Now with Akalis in charge, the BJP is not complaining. State chief Vijay Sampla plays second fiddle to Sukhbir at rallies and ends his speech with the same punch line. “I am a minister in the union government. So is Harsimrat Badal. If you elect Salaria, you also get two union ministers free. It’s a great offer this festive season,” he says. Many among the crowd clap. But whether they fall for the offer is the question.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 11:43 IST