More than prestige, the fight for Bathinda is a tough family fight. Sitting Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP, Harsimrat Kaur Badal is pitted against Manpreet Singh Badal, fielded jointly by Congress, People’s Party of Punjab and CPI.
Harsimrat is daughter-in-law of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and wife of deputy CM Sukhbir and Manpreet is the son of Badal’s brother, Gurdas Badal.
This is Badals’ hometown and hence a matter of prestige for the family, say residents of Badal village which also falls in this constituency.
Badal started his political career as a sarpanch of Badal village. He contests from Lambi — one of the nine Assembly segments under the Bathinda parliamentary constituency. “This is the den of Badals. One can easily imagine how important this seat is,” says Mohinder Pal from Badal village standing next to CM’s palatial house.
And the proof can be seen on the money being spent on publicity material and lavish rallies. In 2009 Harsimrat defeated Ranninder Singh, son of former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, by over 1.35 lakh votes — the highest margin in the state. This year’s devar-bhabhi contest is on personal issues as they focus more on attacking each other rather than coming to real issues. Villagers of Badal, where both families reside, say, “this is a family fight and it is indeed tough.”
Bathinda is one of the 15 super-sensitive constituencies in the country and Manpreet, apprehending largescale rigging, has already demanded EVM machines with a paper trail option. While Harsimrat aims for the largest victory margin in the country, Manpreet claims he is in the heart of the masses and will dethrone the most powerful family of Punjab.
Manpreet has been a four-time MLA from Gidderbaha during Akali rule and is a former finance minster of the state. He quit the cabinet, the party and launched People’s Party of Punjab(PPP) in 2011. His candidates contested all 117 constituencies in the 2012 Assembly elections but failed to win even one.
However, in May 2013 he entered into a seat adjustment formula with the Congress in parts of Malwa region. This worked well for both and PPP and Congress won considerable number of seats in zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections. Working on the same formula, in March, Manpreet entered into an alliance with Congress for Bathinda Lok Sabha seat. The CPI and Akali Dal (Longowal) also extended support and he was declared the joint candidate contesting on the Congress symbol.
In stark contrast to Harsimrat’s campaign, Manpreet’s posters or hoardings are missing. He can be seen campaigning for at least 15 hours a day. His wife, son Arjun (19) and other family members support him in the campaigning. According to Arjun, “if the Congress, PPP and CPI vote is combined, we are ahead of our rivals by 1.35 lakh votes. It is an organised campaign and I am sure dad will win.”
Harsimrat however says this contest is easier than before. “Last time I defeated a former CM’s son. This time my rival is a person who could not even win his seat, on his party symbol, in Assembly elections. Yes, he is my brother-in-law but I will give him a crushing defeat. It will be his political death.”
She also harps on development and reminds the people that she has distributed more than Rs 140 crores in the constituency in the past 5 years.
An interesting element to the Bathinda elections is the presence of an Independent candidate, also called Manpreet Singh Badal, who is contesting on the ‘kite’ symbol which once belonged to PPP.