If there is one man in Punjab politics who has himself become an election issue, it is Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Projected as the quintessential ‘bad guy’, Majithia’s public image has hit an all-time low in the run up to the general elections. “I am everyone’s favourite whipping boy. When the opposition doesn’t have anything to say, I am hit,” he told The Indian Express.
He is the man everyone loves to hate and no election speech made by an opposing candidate is complete without a reference to Majithia as a “mafia leader”.
“You people pride yourself as owners of land. The land you own is only the one feet on top. All that is under belongs to Bikram Majithia,” is Bhagwant Mann’s favourite quip to farmers when he campaigns in Sangrur as the AAP candidate alleges that Majithia heads the illegal sand mafia in Punjab.
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“In the village, we are getting Majithia but no poppy husk,” says a villager in Khadoor Sahib while explaining that the the new code word for smack is Majithia.
Even on the social media, Majithia and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal — his brother-in-law — are depicted as having monopolised a number of sectors from transport to cable network and Punjabi TV channels.
Majithia, however, feels he has been treated unfairly. “Whatever is said about me is all false. A figment of imagination. Had we been involved in the racket being run by Jagdish Bhola, do you think we would have arrested him? I have nothing to do with illegal mining,” he had told The Indian Express last week. “I am as much as a human being as anyone else. I have children too. I don’t want them to grow up thinking their father is a notorious man,” he added.
As the Youth Akali Dal (YAD) president Majithia also bears the responsibility of actions of all YAD men. “This happens with all YAD presidents. Whatever anyone does and is a member of YAD is attributed to the president,” he had said.
How much of his image impacts the election prospects of his sister Harsimrat Kaur Badal in the Bathinda remains to be seen but Sukhbir supports him unstintingly. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on the other hand, say sources, is barely able to hide his disapproval of Majithia. On more than one occasion, Badal had ended up embarrassing Majithia in public functions. The latest was his asking Majithia why he was in Bathinda for the filing of Harsimrat’s nomination papers. “All that was said on the day of filing was a family joke. He was not unhappy to see me. He knew I would be there for my sister,” Majithia said.
Considered to be a excellent orator, Majithia has had to pay a very high price for his speeches while campaigning for BJP candidate Arun Jaitley. In his first speech he “welcomed” Captain Amarinder Singh in the battle filed in true majha style saying that the Akalis would feed Amarinder and treat him well but if needed could wring his neck too (interpreted later by SAD as “pin him down”). The SAD on a back foot was at pains issuing clarifications to the election commission following a complaint.
But the worst was yet to come, almost as the culmination of what was building up during the past month. With only a day to go to polls, Majithia now finds himself in a thick soup with the Akal Takhts (Sikh temporal heads) after he changed a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib to include Arun Jaitley’s name. He has had to apologise before the Akal Takth in Darbar sahib (Golden Temple) and at Nanded Sahib. For a party that was constituted to follow a panthic agenda, the SAD leaders are hoping that Majithia’s apologies will suffice, at least for the time being.