“Tere yaar nu daban nu phirde, par dabda kithe aa (opponents are trying to suppress your friend, but he remains unbeaten)”. This unofficial campaign song for AAP’s Bhagwant Mann during the Lok Sabha polls in Sangrur has now become a send-up to mock him for going missing from his constituency after winning it just two months back.
As Mann left to meet his daughter in US in July — the month which saw Sangrur reel under the Ghaggar breach, locals have been singing a different song: “Tere yaar nu labhan nu phirde par, labhda kithe aa (we are trying to find your friend, but where is he?)”.
During campaign, Mann projected himself as someone who will always be around to lend a helping hand. He even tried to douse flames in the fields of Barnala farmers during campaign. But after Ghaggar breach, which happened on July 16 at Moonak in Sangrur’s Lehragaga Assembly segment, he has remained conspicuous by his absence.
Jagsir Singh, a farmer whose crop sown over 13 acres was damaged, said,” This is the new song everyone is singing now as we search for the MP.”
Balwinder Singh, a farmer from Bhunder Bhaini villages who suffered crop loss over 10 acres, said: “When a leader doesn’t stand by you in difficult times, he is bound to face criticism. We have no choice but to ask: ‘Bhagwant Mann Labhda kithe aa’.”
Bhim Pardhan, a former Nagar Council president of Moonak, added, “Where is he now when residents have lost their crops, many houses have been damaged. It shows that he is an actor and was doing a drama during the poll campaign.” He added: “AAP does not have a strong base in Lehragaga, perhaps this is the reason the AAP MP is not keen to visit this area.”
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Mann won from Sangrur with a margin of 2.11 lakh votes, but had lost from Lehragaga Assembly constituency by about 10,000 votes. Even in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, although he won by about 1.1 lakh votes, he again lost Lehragaga by about 9,000 votes. He had lost Assembly polls from Lehragaga in 2012 on a PPP ticket.
Ranvir Singh Mahal, a farmer of Bhunder Bhaini village, said, “The crop on 17 acres I tilled has been destroyed, but there is no sign of our MP Bhagwant Mann. He is very active on social media, but he did not say a word about us even in any of his video messages. Today, he updated his Facebook page by posting about Shaheed Udham Singh’s martyrdom, but not a word about the floods. On July 29, he was posting about two bus stands built with MP quota funds but not a word about us.”
Many people The Indian Express spoke to said that even if Mann was abroad, he should have at least posted a message for farmers back home on his Facebook page that is updated on a regular basis. Mann was contacted repeatedly, but he was not available for comment.
In Sangrur, crops spread over 21,775 acres were badly hit due to flooding and heavy rainfall. But even Aman Arora, an MLA from Sunam in Sangrur district and the co-convenor of AAP, Punjab, did not visit the flood affected areas.
AAP leader and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema along with local leadership did visit the area on July 19 and met affected farmers. Cheema is MLA from Dirba in Sangrur district.
As of now, farmers are busy doing re-sowing of late varieties of paddy or basmati. Many are facing shortage of seedlings. Tubewell motors of most farmers in six villages that took the worst hit have been damaged. Babu Singh, from Surjan Bhaini, said,” I am busy in arranging seedlings. I am in deep shock and hence, I am not bothered as to which politician visited or not. Our priorities are something else at present.”
Cheema, while talking with The Indian Express, said,”Mann was not in India when Ghaggar breach occurred. I visited the area and met the farmers. Mann came back to India only recently and he will be visiting the area soon. He is very much aware of the issue and had had even raised it in Parliament last year.”