It is Congress versus Congress in three panchayats of Mehraj — the native place of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in Bathinda district — while it is Badal versus Badal, representing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress respectively, at Badal village — the native place of former CM Parkash Singh Badal in Muktsar district.
Despite being a Nagar Panchayat, Mehraj has eight Gram Panchayats, out of which six are going to polls (two panchayats still have two more years as these are newly formed).
Among the six, Congress’s Parampal Kaur was elected unopposed as the sarpanch of Kothe Tallwali panchayat. In Gursar Mehraj and Mehraj Khurd, it is a direct fight between the SAD and Congress. In the remaining three, Congress candidates are contesting against each other.
The SAD does not have candidates in these three, and has extended an open invitation to the Congress candidates “who lose” to come to the “party fold.”
Harinder Mehraaj, President of Mehraj Nagar Panchayat and a SAD leader says, “When there is factionalism in the ruling party in the CM’s native village, what is the point of fielding our candidates. We are supporting one of the Congress candidates in the three villages and have told them that they can come to us anytime, even if they lose. After all, divided Congress vote bank will be with us — a ground work for Lok Sabha polls.”
Mehraj is under Rampura Phull constituency, represented by Punjab Power Minister Gurpreet Kangar.
In Mehraj’s Kothe Himmatpura village panchayat, Congress candidates Parwinder Singh and Harmail Singh are in the fray for the post of sarpanch, while in Kothe Maha Singh Congress’s Harpal Kaur and Harbans Kaur are fighting against each other. Harpal says in 2007, she had lost by just four votes. Harbans had helped the SAD candidate at that time, she alleged.
In Kothe Malluana, villagers have chosen Bachittar Singh as their Congress sarpanch unanimously, but the panchayat will go to polls as Kangar is said to be unhappy with the choice. So now Gurlal (earlier chosen as the panch) and Jasbir are pitted against each other for the sarpanch’s post.
Villagers, however, are unanimous on one point — Captain not visiting them even once after coming to power. “He did not come, even for thanking us. We have problems related to drainage of water and clean drinking water supply in our villages and even staff in civil hospital are inadequate. The CM did a lot of work during his 2002-2007 tenure, but he has forgotten us this time,” say Gurchet Singh, a villager.
All the panchayats have around 250 to 800 voters each.
In Badal, the fight is between Udayveer Singh Dhillon alias Udayveer Singh Badal, a close relative of Parkash Singh, of SAD and Jabarjang Singh Brar, popular as Mukha Badal of Congress, supported by Congress leader Maheshinder Badal and Finance Minister Manpreet Badal. Both are contesting their first election, while Gagandeep Kumar is the third candidate from a SAD faction.
Udayveer, who studied in Dehradun and Delhi, comes from a family of landlords with over 100 acres of farm land, compared to just around Jabarjang’s 10 acres.
Udayveer, after getting his election symbol ‘kite’, says, “(Parkash Singh) Badal Saheb’s image speaks volume in this area. So I am not finding this election tough at all. Congress is not sending any development grants, so we need to get works done through MP quota only, once voted to power.”
Tejinder Singh Midhukhera, a Zila Parishad member and a close confidant of Badals, who was with Udayveer in his sprawling farmhouse, says despite “government pressure”, the SAD “will win most panchayats in Lambi.”
Udayveer’s grandfather Mohinder Singh was sarpanch from the SAD in 1993 and was close to the former CM. Charanjeet, Udayveer’s father said he never entered politics. “But, now my son is interested, so I am not stopping him. Youngsters should come in politics to bring the change they are expecting.”
Jabarjang, who is referred to as a ‘commoner’ in the village, when asked about his contest with a high-profile candidate from Badal family, says panchayat polls are based on personal image and not whether one is rich or poor. “I am available to masses, while the SAD candidate has come to the village only for some time. “He was living outside the village earlier. The Congress has its own vote bank and even villagers believe in my face value.”
The Congress candidate, however, himself is a fan of former CM Parkash Singh as he says, “No work is left in this village as it belongs to the former CM. However, idea is to get daily works of people done, like to help them in getting documents from revenue department.”
“It will be a tough fight,” says Surjeet Singh, a villager, as Jabarjang displays his election symbol, which is a ‘cot’.
Badal village with 2,919 voters has elected Akali sarpanch since 1993, say the villagers.
One thing is different, however. Badal’s village, which had a reserved candidate for the past three terms, has gone to general candidates this time.