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Sleazy video of rebel SAD MP: Ghubaya’s undoing, or ‘insult to Rai Sikhs’? Jalalabad, Fazilka get murkier

A viral video, purportedly showing him in an intimate situation with a woman, has muddled the equations amid talk of more such videos surfacing just days ahead of the February 4 election.

punjab Updated: Jan 27, 2017 20:56 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times
Akali Dal MP Sher Singh Ghubaya (HT Photo)

At a time when every political party in Punjab has been accusing the other of orchestrating fake news, a “sleazy” video purportedly showing Akali Dal MP Sher Singh Ghubaya has gone viral. It has come a week ahead of the February 4 elections in the state and will impact the second-most crucial seat in the state, that of SAD president and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal.

Until Friday morning, Ferozepur MP Ghubaya, was being seen as a man bigger than parties. As an Akali MP, he was seeking votes for his son, Davinder, who is fighting on a Congress ticket from Fazilka. Other than the open defiance, it was Sukhbir ‘s own prestige that was at stake.

Also, the video came barely 24 hours before Congress vice -president Rahul Gandhi’s scheduled Jalalabad rally.

Ghubaya hails from the dominant community of Rai Sikhs, which has sway over not just Fazilka but also Jalalabad, the seat Sukhbir is fighting since Ghubaya vacated it as an MLA in 2009. The Rai Sikhs account to nearly a third of the votes in the two seats next to the Pakistan border. With the video bringing Ghubaya squarely on the Congress side, Sukhbir is now pitted against three MPs in Jalalabad – Congress Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu, AAP’s Bhagwant Mann and one of his own.

The video, purportedly showing Ghubaya in an intimate situation with a woman, has muddled the equations in both the seats amid talk of more such videos surfacing in the run-up to the polls. After the video went viral on WhatsApp, Ghubaya was quick to train his guns directly at Sukhbir. At a press conference, he called the video “fake” and an attempt by Sukhbir to “politically murder” him. Accompanied by Congress MP Bittu, Ghubaya also sought to turn the “attack” around by terming it “a conspiracy to insult the Rai Sikh community”.

Math of the matter

So far, in Fazilka, the contest was being seen as between Ghubaya’s son Davinder and independent candidate Rajdeep Kaur, sister of slain gangster Jaswinder Singh Rocky, who had finished a close second to BJP’s Surjit Kumar Jyani in 2012. Jyani, a Bagria Jat, is again in the contest while AAP has fielded Samarbir Singh, a Jat Sikh. Of the 52,000 Rai Sikh votes out of the 1.6 lakh in Fazilka, while many remained loyal to Ghubaya, Rocky commanded a chunk in 2012 — thanks to his ‘Robinhood’ image among the mostly-deprived rural community.

In Jalalabad, where the community is 30% of the 1.9-lakh votes, Ghubaya was giving tacit support to Congress, while the younger lot was apparently tilting towards satirist-politician Mann.

Will it spin?

Ghubaya, who had stayed on in SAD apparently to retain his Lok Sabha seat saying “he wants to serve his people for the full term”, has now sought to spin this as an insult to the community to consolidate the votes towards the Congress. But the discourse on the ground remained salacious and calculative. Opponents were weighing their words till the filing of the report.

In this dirty war, this “dangerous” move allegedly by Sukhbir could play out in varied ways. “Another ‘bomb’ will explode by Saturday afternoon, and the real effects will be seen only by the end of the weekend. It could well be seen by the Rai Sikh community as hounding of its leader,” said an old-time political observer of the region.

The “bomb” is thus likely to explode on the day that Rahul, state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh and other senior Congress leaders will be seeking votes for Ghubaya and Bittu. “It is just a ploy to divert the attention of the voters from the real issues,” said Bittu.

“Which video? It must be a ‘chaal’ (ploy) by Sukhbir!,” said Sukhjit Singh, a 25-year-old mason at Thagni, a Rai Sikh-dominated village where Davinder was campaigning on Friday evening. “I have not seen the video. Fake or whatever, such things cannot divide our community,” added Surjit Singh, 26, also a mason. “It can only make our resolve stronger.”

First Published: Jan 27, 2017 17:23 IST