WHILE CONTENDERS from major political parties are organising massive rallies in the last lap of campaigning for Lok Sabha elections, a bunch of independents and candidates from lesser known parties are focusing on key issues that they feel are largely missing from the agendas of the Congress, SAD-BJP and AAP among others.
Instead of rallies, they are relying on door-to-door visits, meeting people at bus stops and markets to meet the electorate.
Jagmeet Singh Jagga, a Muktsar resident, is busy campaigning these days in Punjab’s Faridkot constituency. He is an independent candidate and his election symbol is a ‘football’. It is not difficult for Jagga to gather crowds in the villages as his poll plank appeals to the masses.
“I am contesting this election with the motive of getting poppy cultivation legalised in Punjab. This way, we can get rid of synthetic drugs and many drug-related deaths. I have an NGO called ‘Insaaf Team’, which has been organising seminars and rallies in Punjab since September last year. Now I decided to contest the election as I am serious about the ‘jawaani and kisaani of Punjab’.”
Jagmeet said poppy cultivation is being done in seven states of Punjab including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. “It can yield good farm income to farmers and can give them relief from the agrarian crisis. Even drug deaths will stop happening.I had written to Punjab CM as well on this issue and even Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi had agreed with him, apart from Sukhpal Singh Khaira. However, it is not a poll issue for any of the main party candidates…While allegations are levelled by Congress and SAD-BJP regarding drugs in Punjab, no one is bothered to find a solution to drug deaths and drug mafia.”
Last Saturday, Jagmeet campaigned at bus stands and markets, talking to people about poppy cultivation. “Another issue is to charge money on water being sent to Rajasthan or Haryana from Punjab so that we can earn money and come out of debt,” he said.
Chit fund rackets
“As real issues are missing from Congress, SAD-BJP, AAP or even other parties’ agendas, we have no choice but to contest ourselves. I know it is a difficult task to win when candidates before us are super rich. But it is an effort to raise real issues before the masses,” said Mahinder Singh Dangarh, president of the Bharti Lok Sewa Dal and party candidate from Sangrur.
“I am meeting people in houses. On Saturday I went to meet farmers and labourers at mandis. Our party has fielded six candidates in Punjab and 50 across the country with the ‘telephone’ symbol. The agenda is to get money embezzled by chit fund companies recovered. I visit around 500 houses per day and nearly 300 of them tell me that even they were duped by chit fund companies. In Sangrur, many had invested through chit fund companies, but none of the candidates speak on this issue. Thousands of crores have been duped by chit fund companies. Even AAP candidates, who claim they represent the common man, also do not speak about chit fund companies, despite the fact that Arvind Kejriwal had once met many victims during a visit to Sangrur.”
Veerpal Kaur, a resident from Ralla village of Mansa, is an independent candidate from Bathinda Lok Sabha seat. Her election symbol is a ‘pitcher’. Here, covering candidate Manjit Kaur from Khayla Kalan could not withdraw her papers due to some confusion and hence, she too has been given the ‘sewing machine’ symbol. Both their husbands committed suicide due to growing farm debt and now, they have decided to raise the issue of farmer distress by contesting elections. Veerpal’s father-law Nachhtar Lal had hanged himself in 1990 while her father Krishan Chand consumed poison in 1995. Her husband Dharmveer had set himself on fire. She now lives in her paternal village Ralla with her son and daughter while Manjit lives in Khayla Kalan in Mansa. Her husband committed suicide last year. Both are under a Rs 5 lakh debt.
Veerpal said, “Manjit campaigns with me. We tell people that they should cast vote only to me, as she could not withdraw papers by mistake.” Manjit Kaur agreed, “We don’t want to divide our votes. We had deposited security by collecting donations and now we are campaigning while traveling by auto or bus, dependent on donations.”
Veerpal added, “We campaign without any loudspeakers and tents. We tell people to spread our message via social media as we don’t have enough funds like other parties.”
Gurmeet Singh of the Punjab Labour Party (PLP) is also a contestant from Bathinda constituency. He is a Sirsa Dera Sacha Sauda follower. “My main issue is the Panchkula firing which killed many Dera followers and many are being harassed with wrong FIRs. It was done at the behest of BJP and RSS, thus killing innocents. There are many Dera followers in Bathinda who too understand the pain. We will be organising a candlelight march next week and even I will be sitting on a hunger strike on this issue. This is the only way to campaign as I am aware that people are attracted to large parties who spend money and not the ones who raise issues,” he said.
Ravinderpal Singh, owner of ‘Mr Singh Food King’, is an independent candidate from Ludhiana who aims to free Ludhiana from the ‘education and health mafia’ while Badal Singh, a Moga resident who is contesting from Faridkot constituency as an Independent, is a farm labourer who wants to raise the plight of farm labourers. Many candidates feel that it is diffcult to win, but said they are contesting to give a message to political parties about ‘real issues’ apart from religion and polarisation.