Despite the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) taking a long time to announce their candidates for Mansa constituency – both declared the candidates in their respective last lists – the parties seem to have failed to pick a suitable contender. While SADs Prem Mittal has been trying to convince the constituencys electorate that he is not an outsider,Congress candidate Gurpreet Kaur Gaggowal – daughter-in-law of sitting MLA Sher Singh Gaggowal – is yet to master the art of addressing the masses.
Mittal who was born in Budhlada,has been living in Ludhiana for more than 40 years and is a former senior deputy mayor of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation. Initially with the Congress,he switched to the SAD,a few years ago. With the SAD picking him for the seat,Mittal has stepped up efforts to emphasise his Mansa roots,to such an extent,that poll hoardings with his photographs have Prem Mittal ( Budhlade wale) written on them. On January 9,I was told to contest from this seat. I never sought a ticket. Though I had left this area years back,I used to visit once in a while, Mittal admits. While campaigning,the former Ludhiana deputy mayor repeatedly recollects his early days and tells voters of how he used to study here and was part of plays that were staged in the area.
The Congress candidate,Gurpreet Kaur Gaggowal,on the other hand,is a first timer and is bereft of words at public rallies. Despite having campaigned for her father-in-law Sher Singh Gaggowal in previous polls,Gurpreet has been finding the going tough. I am suffering from spinal cord disease,so party has given a chance to my daughter-in-law, says Sher Singh.
While she is well versed on the names of villages in the area and their locations,Gurpreet does not talk about the issues plaguing her constituency. In contrast,her father-in-law always gives elaborate speeches. Satsri Akal. Papaji has told you everything. So give me plenty of votes this term, she simply says. Sources say that both the SAD and Congress workers are unhappy with the choice of candidates and many are not even walking with them.
With the frontrunners facing a difficult time,the CPIs Hardev Arshi is hoping to cash in on the situation. Twice MLA from Budhlada in 1992 and 1997,Arshi says: I am contesting from Mansa this time,because Budhlada has become a reserved seat.