ON FRIDAY afternoon, Satnam Singh Kainth was busy fielding calls from “well-wishers and supporters”. They were calling not to express sympathy over the Election Commission delisting his Democratic Bahujan Samaj Morcha, but to congratulate him on getting a Congress ticket for the upcoming Assembly elections.
“Mera pucca ho gaya hai (My ticket has been confirmed),” Kainth told The Indian Express after the Congress released its second list of candidates, nominating the 56-year-old from Banga constituency.
This is the tenth time that Kainth — a former MLA, MP and even Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly representing BSP in the 1990s — would be contesting elections. This time, the Congress dropped its sitting MLA from Banga, Tarlochan Singh Sundh, to accommodate Kainth.
Asked about the Democratic Bahujan Samaj Morcha, which he set up in 1999, Kainth says he merged it with the Congress in 2007.
The Morcha was delisted by the Election Commission since it had put up no candidates for the Assembly or general elections since 2005.
As The Indian Express reported Friday, a list of 255 such delisted parties was sent Wednesday by the EC to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), recommending “necessary action” since they are no longer entitled to tax benefits that accrue to registered political entities.
“I didn’t know that my former party has been delisted. It should have been delisted in 2007 when I merged it with the Congress,” says Kainth, who receives visitors in a well-appointed office inside his double-storeyed house built on half-an-acre of land in Sotran village, 2 km from Banga town.
There are no party symbols in the office or inside the residential compound to show Kainth’s affiliations, past or present.
According to Kainth, the Morcha was set up in 1999 after he split from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). “After merging my party with the Congress, I had written to the Election Commission to inform that the Democratic Bahujan Samaj Morcha does not exist,” he claims.
Kainth says he is not employed and runs no business, but adds that he owns a 250 sq-yard house in Urban Estate Jalandhar, one of the city’s upscale neighbourhoods. He claims that he bought the house after his opponents projected him as an “outsider” when he contested on a Congress ticket from Adampur in Jalandhar in 2012.
“My family has supported me financially always,” he says.
According to Kainth, his family owns agricultural land in Punjab but has been in the United States “for decades”. “They are my source of income,” he says.
“I have been in active politics since 1981 and have contested six Assembly and three parliamentary elections. I contested elections for the first time in 1985 on a BSP ticket. Under the banner of my own party, I fought two elections, including the 1999 parliamentary elections and the 2002 Punjab Assembly elections…I lost both,” he says.
Kainth says one of his two sons has completed his MBBS from DMC Ludhiana while other is pursuing an MTech from IIT-Delhi.
“My party got no funds and never filed any audit report. It used to have several office-bearers across the state and they would hold regular meetings,” he says.
Kainth is known to have been close to former Punjab chief minister, the late Beant Singh, and is said to have had widespread contacts in the state government because of his proximity to BSP founder, the late Kanshi Ram, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kainth says he was the first Punjab president of DS-4, a party formed by Kanshi Ram that was declared defunct in 1987. Kainth, who was also BSP youth wing president of Punjab from 1987-1994, became a BSP MLA in 1992 before rising to become Leader of Opposition.