The first show of strength by Sarabjit Singh Makkar after getting ticket, the SAD candidate from Jalandhar Cantonment Assembly constituency, in the presence of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal turned out to be a damp squib. So, Makkar took the help of schoolchildren and college students to fill up the chairs at the rally. All the senior SAD leaders from Jalandhar Cantonment and Jalandhar district boycotted Sukhbir’s function along with their supporters in protest against Makkar being given a ticket.
The Deputy CM was to lay the foundation of the ITI at Sofi Pind (the native village of Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla) around 12:30 pm, but more than 60 per cent chairs were empty till 1 pm as some 100 men and women, brought in buses from nearby villages, were occupying one side of the venue. So, the rally organiser rushed to bring students of classes 6 to 12 of Senior Secondary School Sofi Pind and students of ITI College, Lajpat Nagar, to the venue just before the Deputy CM arrived.
“I am a Class VI student and my teacher asked our class to attend the rally as students of entire schools will see the rally today,” said a student of government school in Sofi Pind.
BJP leaders said that when no SAD leader and their supporters from Jalandhar Cantonment came in Makkar’s support, Makkar asked Sampla, a native, to use his clout to fill up the venue. Still, several chairs remained empty till the end.
Even some men and women were brought from Adampur to make up the numbers. Makkar had fought the 2007 Assembly election from Adampur and became MLA and after the seat became reserved, he was sent to Kapurthala where he lost to the Congress in 2012.
Even Youth Akali Dal leaders failed to arrange supporters and then some BJP leaders were asked to arrange their supporters who shouted slogans in favour of Sampla at the function. Makkar explained in his speech that he had very little time to organise the rally as he was not aware of the function till Wednesday evening.
Makkar’s candidature from Cantt was opposed by Jalandhar district president Gurcharan Singh Channi, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee member Paramjit Singh Raipur, Kulwant Singh Manan, Deputy Senior Mayor Kamaljit Bhatia and other leaders.
They said Makkar was an outsider at Jalandhar Cantt, which was vacated by former hockey skipper Pargat Singh when he resigned from SAD and he was working in Kapurthala constituency for the past five years before coming to the Cantonment, where he had no base, all of a sudden.