The Punjab Assembly Speaker, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Kotkapura, made headlines on Thursday when his security personnel thrashed a driver after his truck hit the Speaker’s car on the Jalandhar-Amritsar bypass near Dobutrji.
It was learnt that due to construction work on the stretch where the incident occurred the road had then turned “one way” and was seeing traffic congestion.
As the video of the incident went viral, Sandhwan tendered an apology on behalf of his staff but also demanded an independent inquiry into the incident.
A two-time AAP MLA, Sandhwan, 46, was elected as the Speaker of the Punjab House in March after the AAP swept the state Assembly polls. In the 2022 polls, he trounced the Congress party’s Ajaipal Singh Sandhu by 21,130 votes, while he had defeated Congress candidate Harnirpal Singh Kukku in the 2017 polls.
Sandhwan is a relative of former President of India Giani Zail Singh. His father Jangir Singh and Zail Singh were brothers.
Sandhwan, who completed his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1997, worked as the works manager in General Motors in Chandigarh till 2002 before returning to his village Sandhwan in Kotkapura.
An admirer of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, Sandhwan has continued to make news after becoming the Speaker. In June, during the Budget Session of the state Assembly, the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government had proposed to give its nod to a textile park at Mattewara in Ludhiana near the Sutlej river banks. However, soon videos went viral showing Sandhwan sitting in dharnas with environmental activists to protest against the textile park. The government was thus forced to scrap this project.
When the Mann government banned “jugadu (makeshift) carts” in April, many people held a protest outside Sandhwan’s house in Kotkapura, demanding cancellation of police challans against their vehicles. The government eventually rolled back this order as well.
Although Sandhwan remained non-committal during the recent damaged mattress episode in the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital (GGSMCH)in Faridkot that saw the resignation of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS)’s Vice Chancellor Dr Raj Bahadur following his “humiliation” at the hands of health minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra. However, when the AAP was in the Opposition, Sandhwan used to regularly join the protests held by the NGOs against the GGSMCH’s “abysmal plight” and the BFUHS V-C’s alleged “apathy and indifference”.
Soon after assuming the Speaker’s office, Sandhwan had said, “I quit my General Motors job in 2002 and used my knowledge in farming and became the sarpanch of my village in 2003. Later, I remained active in farming issues of the area, and in 2013 I joined AAP. I remained campaign committee member of AAP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Later, I even became one of the five spokespersons of Punjab AAP. After the 2015 Kotkapura firing incident, AAP remained active in the area and we raised the matter seeking justice. My fight for public issues led to my getting elected as an MLA in 2017 and I am thankful to people for giving me yet another chance in 2022.”
In the course of the farmer protests during 2020-21 against the Centre’s now-repealed agricultural laws, Kejriwal appointed Sandhwan as the president of the Punjab AAP’s kisan wing. He had said that during the farm stir, “farmers regularly used to visit the Delhi borders (the venue of the farmer protests) irrespective of their political affiliations and I kept on meeting them on a regular basis… I myself went to the borders as a farmer 6-7 times.”
On his new role as the Speaker, Sandhwan had said, with a smile, that “I will fulfil it with diligence… I will be the Speaker whose job will be to keep people quiet, so as to let the affairs of the House run in a smooth manner.” As per his election affidavit, his total assets was 74 lakhs in 2017, which declined to 44 lakhs in 2022.