Soon after filing his nomination papers,Raninder Singh,the Congress candidate from Samana,leaves for Gajewas with Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla driving his vehicle. A long line of SUVs reaches Gajewas,Singlas native village,with local residents welcoming the scion of Patiala royal family with a siropa. With his mother by his side,this is Raninders first stop in his constituency.
Unlike the Z plus security of his father,Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh,Raninder just has a police escort vehicle. This has come only after filing nomination papers, he says.
Each day,his campaign starts at 7 am and ends at 10 pm.
At every village,his election speech centres around his father and how he will get whatever he wants for the constituency through Amarinder Singh,the next CM. Dont your kids ask for anything they fancy? I,as the son of chief minister Amarinder Singh,will have the same right. Then why vote for Badals son? Soon we will form the government and it is the party in power that makes all budgetary provisions for development, he tells them. The Congress is in power in Delhi. I will take up the issue of setting up a big industry in Samana with the Centre. One big industry will generate thousands of jobs, he adds.
The rest of his speech is targeted at the Badals. My political opponents say that we are maharajas who live in palaces,have dogs,and dont meet people. Can I help it if I am born in a royal family and live in a palace? Should I live in (SAD candidate Surjit) Rakhras house? My mother is a three-time MP. My father was a CM. Why would people vote for us if we dont meet them?, he asks.
With many of its urban pockets forming the new Patiala Rural seat,Samana is now a rural belt with 1.46 lakh voters,comprising mainly Sikh farmers,the traditional vote-bank of the Akalis. The Patiala Rural seat was a safer bet which is why sitting Congress MLA Brahm Mohindra shifted base to the former.
Raninder says that he has never shied away from challenges. When I was fielded from Bathinda during the Lok Sabha polls,it was well-known that it wasnt an easy seat. I fought and not only took the Congress vote share up in the Akali stronghold but also contained them to the seat, he says.
The village,says farmer Harinder Sharma,is divided 50:50 between the Akalis and the Congress.
At Fatehgarh Chhanna,Raninder repeats: My father will be the CM and he will fulfil all your dreams.
Says Kaul Singh,a local resident: The Badals wasted money on kabbadi world cup. They did not give us jobs. But there are many who have strong affiliations with Rakhra. After all,he installed streetlights and built a stadium.