Just ahead of the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, a blast ripped through Maur in the Bathinda parliamentary constituency, killing seven and injuring 25 people. Two years later, as the area gets ready to vote again, the blast is once again a topic of discussion among those affected by it.
In 2017, the blast had failed to have much impact on the turnout as the booth near the blast site had registered 76.6 per cent polling.
Bathinda, the constituency in which Maur falls, had registered 85 per cent polling. The voters back then had picked an AAP leader Jagdev Singh Kamaloo over Congress’s Harminder Jassi. The blast had happened soon after Jassi’s rally.
Balveer Singh, grandfather of 13-year-old Japsimar Singh, a blast victim, said: “Last time we chose AAP’s Jagdev Singh Kamaloo. But this time, AAP is facing a crisis from within after Sukhpal Khaira formed a separate party. We don’t have much hope from these parties as they could not deliver much except consoling us. We are waiting to know the Congress face, and only after that will decide as to whom we should back. Harsimrat Badal has been here for the past 10 years but despite that we could not get justice in the blast case. No one from the Badal family, not even a SAD leader, visited us. We will remember this while voting.”
Nachhtar Singh, whose 11-year-old nephew, Ripandeep Singh, was killed in the blast said, “the blast happened soon after rally of Harminder Jassi who was Congress candidate of this area and hence our biggest grudge is with Jassi as he did not meet us even once after polls, though he lost. We protested against him last month as we cannot forget that incident till now.”
Gurmail Singh, president of a labour union in Maur, said: “It is just wait and watch. We looked for a change, but even that did not work. The main parties are indifferent to us.”
In Maur, Jagdev Singh Kamaloo, who is still an AAP MLA, is supporting Sukhpal Khaira, who is a PDA candidate for Bathinda Lok Sabha seat. Jassi, meanwhile, is busy doing meetings in the area to mobilise voters. In 2017 polls, Jassi had come at third position while Kamaloo had defeated SAD’s Janmeja Singh Sekhon to win the Assembly seat.
AAP announced the name of its sitting MLA Baljinder Kaur as the Lok Sabha candidate from Bathinda. Kaur, the MLA from Talwandi Sabo and party’s Punjab unit Mahila wing chief, is a postgraduate in English, had a brief stint as a teacher at Fatehgarh Sahib, before joining the party ahead of the 2017 state assembly polls. She had contested from Talwandi Sabo assembly constituency on the AAP ticket in 2017 and won. Balveer Singh said that despite being the local MP and a Union minister, Harsimrat “did not visit us even once”. “No one from Badal family or from Akali Dal visited us. We will remember this while casting vote”.
Jaskaran Singh, 27, who sustained 60 per cent burns in the blast, is still bed ridden. Those protesting against the government apathy had once carried Jasakarn on cot to the protest site. His family claims that the government took care of the expenses only till the time he was in hospital. After being discharged, the family is taking care of him. As Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Khaira had started pension of Rs 2500 per month for Jaskaran. But after Khaira left AAP, the pension stopped, the family claimed.