THE BALAKOT air strikes may be a national issue this election while the Bargari sacrilege, Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan firings dominate the narrative in Punjab, but in Hoshiarpur constituency, inflation, unemployment, state minister and “disappeared” MP Vijay Kumar Sampla dominate the minds of the electorate.
Hoshiarpur falls in the Doaba region, known for its concentration of SC voters. The BJP on Tuesday evening announced sitting MLA Som Parkash as its nominee. Congress had already announced its MLA Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal as its candidate while the Aam Aadmi Party has posed its faith in Ravjot Singh and the BSP in Khishi Ram from Hoshiarpur.
“Pakistan te attack kita theek hai. Par Pulwama kyu hoya. Ainna barood kivein chala geya othe (Attack on Pakistan is fine but why did Pulwama happen? How come so much explosive entered a high security zone?” asked Yogiraj, a resident of Jatpur village in Hoshiarpur.
Playing cards outside his tiny chicken vend on the Hoshiarpur highway, he further asked, “Kaahdi election. Saada gareeb admiyan da kujh nahi. Koi kamm hain ni sadde kol. Sabb ikko jehe han. (What election? Poor men like me have no charm. They all are the same.)
His friend Binder was quick to add, “We had elected Sampla. He did not come for a single day.”
Sampla is minister of state for justice and empowerment. “He is not even campaigning. There is no BJP presence. Even if he is not going to get the ticket, he should at least work for the party. He is also BJP’s state president,” said a senior Akali leader organising a rally in the area. Click here for more election news
At Jiaan village, a few kilometres from Jatpur, a group of elderly men were discussing the election. “Modi only lectures. We see him on TV doing this. He has not done anything for Punjab. Whatever he has done is for Gujarat. Even Captain has not given anything to poor. He has not got anything from Modi. Captain will only give if he gets it from Modi. Akali leader Sohan Singh Thandal is the only one who comes here,” said Devinder Singh.
Dharam Singh, another resident of Jiaan village, said Bargari was not an issue in the area. “Oh purani gall ho gayi. (That is an old issue) We do not get anything. We get only Rs 500 as pension. And look at the inflation. Nothing is less than Rs 100. How will a poor man arrange two square meals a day?” he asked.
In a Hoshiarpur city market, inflation and demonetisation are major issues. “Look at the prices of commodities. I hear we lost many jobs after demonetisation. Where would those youths go? We have tried everyone — BJP, Congress. We should try someone else now,” said Dalvir Singh, a shopkeeper in Naroyan Chowk.
But another shopkeeper, Jaswinder Singh, did not agree with him, “Modiji ne bahut changge kamm kitey han. Ohna nu hi vapis aaona chahida (Modiji has done a lot of good work. He should come back).”
Narottam Dass, a customer, chipped in, “Eithe tan Raj da jor hai (Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal is the flavour here).”