Unlike in 2009, when the contest in Ludhiana for the chair of MP was between Congress’s Manish Tewari and Akali Dal’s Gurcharan Singh Galib, the entry of Aam Aadmi Party and an independent candidate has changed the scenario.
All the four main candidates — Ravneet Singh Bittu from Congress, Manpreet Singh Ayali from Akali Dal, H S Phoolka from AAP and independent Simarjit Singh Bains — are Sikhs. This has eliminated the factor of voting on the basis of community. Residents of Ludhiana are terming ‘performance and plans’ as the only criterion to elect their new MP. The anti-incumbency factor along with ‘Modi wave’ is also being considered by residents.
On the anti-incumbency factor, Gurpreet Singh Harry, a resident, said, “Last time in 2009, we voted for Galib from Akali Dal but Tewari won. This year all four candidates are Sikhs and for us performance remains the only criterion.”
Some residents feel that works done by Tewari like opening the first radio station in Ludhiana, getting money sanctioned for Buddha Nullah, efforts to restart a domestic airport and perks for industry can work in favour of the Congress.
Santosh Gupta, an industrialist, said, “We cannot ignore the Congress because Tewari performed to some extent.”
However, Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of former CM Beant Singh who was assassinated by terrorists, is a stranger, feel residents.
“No doubt he carries the legacy of his grandfather, but Ludhiana is still not familiar with the Congress candidate. We can connect with a local person rather than an outsider, and even Phoolka is an outsider. So it is their promises for the constituency will matter,” said Sanpreet Kaur, a college student. Students and young professionals are not convinced about independent candidate Bains, who has a criminal background.
Trisha Kalra, 22 who will vote for the first time, said, “First we must makes sure is that a person with criminal background does not enter Parliament. Bains is the only candidate from Ludhiana with criminal cases pending and obviously not our choice.”
However, anti-incumbency has remained a factor for Ludhiana as in 2004 Tewari was defeated by SAD’s Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and in 2009 Tewari defeated SAD Guracharan Singh Galib.
“Candidates are yet to explain in detail their plans for the constituency, especially regarding industries and pollution,” said Raman Arora, a resident. The work done by Phoolka for 1984 Sikh riots victims and his clean image will be a deciding factor, said Gurcharan Singh, a shopkeeper.
Meanwhile, SAD candidate Ayali and Congress candidate Bittu did not turn up for an open debate called by NGO Mahasabha on Sunday and sent their representatives only. Both termed ‘other commitments’ as the reason for not turning up.