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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Punjab Elections: In sacrilege and police firing hotbed rests 3 seats, Punjab politics’ future

🔴 Punjab elections: The incidents of alleged sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent police firing in which two protesters were killed in 2015, have continued to rock the state's politics even after seven years.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: January 18, 2022 12:11:21 pm
Punjab, Punjab latest news, Punjab assembly elections, Punjab polls 2022, Punjab Congress, SAD, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Faridkot, Punjab politics, indian expressDuring protests over sacrilege, police firing.

An erstwhile princely state, Faridkot is believed to have been founded by Raja Mokal in the thirteenth century. He was the grandson of Rai Munj, a Bhatti Rajput leader from Rajasthan. The town was initially named Mokalhar but after the visit of revered Sufi saint Hazrat Baba Shaikh Farid, it was renamed Faridkot.

Hamir Singh Brar was the ‘sardar’ of Faridkot in 1763 when it became a separate state. In 1803, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army successfully occupied Faridkot but it had to be returned to former rulers at the behest of the British. However, it was Pahar Singh Brar who was the first to be given title of ‘Raja’ of Faridkot by British. After his rule from 1827-49, he was followed by Wazir Singh (1849-74), Bikram Singh (1874-1898) and Balbir Singh (1898-1906). Raja Balbir Singh had no son so he adopted Brijinder Singh, son of his younger brother Gajendra Singh. Brijinder Singh ruled from 1906-1918 and died when his son Harinder Singh Brar was just three. The state went under rule of ‘Regency Council’ till Harinder Singh Brar turned adult and took charge as the last ruler in 1934. His rule lasted for 14 years and ended in 1948 when Faridkot, along with several other princely states, merged with union of India.

The incidents of alleged sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent police firing in which two protesters were killed in 2015, have continued to rock the state’s politics even after seven years. The sacrilege and police firing cases have failed to reach any logical conclusion and have turned out to be the major issue. Under fire for failing to deliver justice in the cases, SAD-BJP had to face crushing defeat in 2017. The alliance failed win any seat in Faridkot. SAD-BJP was reduced to mere 18 seats in 2017 and sacrilege and police firing on protesters were considered the main issues that led to the crushing defeat. AAP wave swept Faridkot in 2017 and the newbie won two of the three segments while one went to Congress.

Here’s a look at the three assembly constituencies of the district:

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Faridkot

Issues

A major environmental issue had erupted in the district last year when at least 1065 fully grown trees were axed in the premises of Faridkot Cooperative Sugar Mills, which has been lying shut. The matter also reached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and a probe was marked to Punjab forest chief. It has been a major demand to restart the mill, which used to employ at least 2,000 persons. Potable water is another major issue for residents of Faridkot, a semi-rural constituency. Underground water is brackish and hence both drinking and irrigation water is contaminated. Mixing of industrial waste in Sutlej, which passes via Ludhiana further deteriorates the problem. Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital (GGSMCH) which was established with an aim to cater to at least 10 Malwa districts, is plagued with several problems including lack of specialist doctors, uncleanliness and hygiene issues and staff shortage. Sewage system in entire town is in shambles too.

Sitting MLA

Kushaldeep Singh Kikki Dhillon (INC)

2012: Deep Malhotra (SAD)

2007: Avtar Singh Brar (INC)

2002: Kushaldeep Singh Kikki Dhillon (SAD)

1997: Avtar Singh Brar (INC)

Candidates

Congress has again given the ticket to sitting MLA Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, co-owner of Green Roadways Bus Service. A former Akali leader, he had moved to People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), the breakaway party of Manpreet Badal which he had formed after parting ways with SAD. Dhillon later joined Congress. He had won from Faridkot on SAD ticket in 2002 and then on Congress ticket in 2017.
Parambans Singh Bunty Romana, state president, Youth Akali Dal (YAD) is the SAD candidate from Faridkot. AAP has again fielded Gurdit Singh Sekhon, a former basketball player. Both Romana and Sekhon had lost to Dhillon in 2017.

Kotkapura

Issues

Police had opened fire at peaceful protesters who were agitating against alleged sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at main chowk of Kotkapura on October 14, 2015 in which at least 44 were injured. Since then, this incident has been the major issue of Kotkapura with people alleging that the then SAD-BJP and now the incumbent Congress governments have failed to deliver justice.

Traffic congestion remains another issue with entire vehicular movement entering Punjab from Rajasthan coming via Kotkapura, which creates a bottleneck situation for the town. With railway overbridges failing to solve the problem, the demand is now to construct a new bypass.

Punjab’s former CM and country’s former President Giani Zail Singh of Congress belonged to Sandhwan village of Kotkapura. During his tenure as Punjab CM, a spinning mill was started here employing at least 4000 but it now lies closed.

Drugs and bad roads continue to plague Kotkapura.

Sitting MLA

Kultar Singh Sandhwan (AAP)

2012: Mantar Singh Brar (SAD)

2007: Ripjit Singh (INC)

2002: Mantar Singh Brar (SAD)

1997: Mantar Singh Brar (IND)

Candidates

AAP has again fielded its sitting MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan. He is the grandson of Giani Zail Singh’s brother. SAD has announced three-time MLA Mantar Singh Brar as its candidate. He had first won from Kotkapura in 1997 as an Independent and then on SAD ticket in 2002 and 2012. Sandhwan had defeated Mantar Brar of SAD and Harnirpal Singh Kukku in 2017.

Jaito (Reserved)

Issues

The seat is the hotbed of sacrilege and subsequent police firing incidents that happened here in 2015 and continue to rock Punjab politics till date. The bir of Guru Granth Sahib was allegedly stolen from the gurdwara of Burj Jawahar Singh Wala of Jaito on June 1, 2015. The pages were subsequently found torn and strewn outside gurdwara at village Bargari on October 12, 2015. Police opened fire at protesters at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura on October 14, 2015. Two protesters were killed at Behbal Kalan in police firing. The three spots of these incidents — Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village, Bargari and Behbal Kalan — are a part of this rural constituency.

Ahead of 2022 polls, Sukhraj Singh, son of one of the deceased protesters Krishan Bhagwan Singh, has now started an indefinite protest at Behbal Kalan since December 16, 2021.

Sitting MLA

Master Baldev Singh (AAP) (disqualified from Punjab Assembly)

2012: Joginder Singh (INC)

Candidates

AAP has announced fresh face — Amolak Singh — as its candidate from Jaito. Master Baldev Singh, a former teacher, who won from here on AAP ticket in 2017, was disqualified from Assembly last year for violating anti-defection law. He contested Lok Sabha polls in 2019 from Faridkot as Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) candidate. He later joined Congress.

SAD has fielded Suba Singh Badal, son of late Gurdev Singh Badal (former minister). In 2017, Master Baldev Singh had defeated Suba Singh and Mohammad Sadiq of Congress, as AAP wave swept sacrilege hotbed. Sadiq later won Lok Sabha polls from Faridkot in 2019.

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