The battle for the Dhuri seat in the upcoming Punjab polls is a do-or-die affair for the family of former chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala to stay alive in the state’s political sphere.
Once a politically influential family,the Barnalas are now fighting for survival in politics since they have quit the ruling SAD headed by Parkash Singh Badal.
The Barnalas have remained sidelined ever since they parted ways with the Badals after the 2007 polls and floated SAD (Longowal) about two years ago.
However,Barnala is eyeing a comeback in Punjab politics through his son Gaganjit Singh Barnala,who is pitted against Congress’ Arvind Khanna,the “right hand man” of the party’s Punjab chief Amarinder Singh and former Akali minister Gobind Singh Longowal.
Gaganjit had won Dhuri in 2002 on a SAD ticket but lost it in 2007 to SAD rebel and independent candidate Iqbal Singh Jhunda by a margin of over 10,000 votes. He is now depending on his mother SAD (Longowal) chief Surjit Kaur Barnala who is actively canvassing for him.
A major cause of concern for Gaganjit is octogenarian Barnala’s ailing health. The former Tamil Nadu governor is not able to campaign with the same energy and intensity as on previous occasions.
Barnala was elected twice to Parliament (1977 and 1998) from Sangrur and had served as a Union minister on both occasions.
He was the chief minister of Punjab during 80’s. In 1999,he lost the Parliamentary elections to Simranjit Singh Mann from the same seat. Barnala’s wife Surjit was elected MLA from Barnala in 1977. After Barnala’s loss in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls,the family lost its hold on the Barnala Assembly segment.
The elections to the 117-member Punjab Assembly will be held on January 30.