EVEN AS Shiromani Akali Dal is going all out to shed the drug taint, ‘country-made liquor’ was the flavour of a public meeting addressed by the wife of SAD candidate from Khemkaran, Virsa Singh Valtoha, at Singhpura village in Tarn Taran district. The meeting was held in the field of a panchayat member, adjoining his house. Some 150 people had been waiting for Valtoha’s son Gaurav Deep Singh to arrive since 4 pm. It finally began when Valtoha’s wife Palwinder Kaur Valtoha arrived around 7.30 pm. It was during the long wait that people sat in groups and began drinking. Meat cooked in the house was served to them. The source of the liquor was not clear.
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Palwinder is a government teacher and according to law, no government employee can campaign or seek votes during elections. Another speaker at the meeting was Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan Sarabjit Singh who died in May 2013 after an assault by fellow prisoners in Pakistan jail. She arrived an hour before Palwinder. Dalbir Kaur joined BJP last month. In her speech, she lashed out at Congress MLAs and ministers for drinking “openly”, and added that “I can reveal the names, too”. She also accused Congress of defaming Punjab on drugs issue for “cheap publicity”. “Ask them how much they have stopped consuming liquor,” she added.
As Dalbir Kaur was leaving, one of the men with her who identified himself as her ‘nephew,’ was seen offering someone a drink, saying it was “really good”, all in front of a visibly taken aback Dalbir. She recovered enough to say: “Eh aam gal hai (This is a common thing). Drinking is common. That is why I was saying that Congress leaders who themselves drink cannot stop others from drinking.” Earlier, at the venue, the panchayat member, who had organised the meeting, waited anxiously for hours together for the leaders to arrive. Gaurav, who was in the area leading a kilometre-long motorcade, passed the village but did not stop.
“I am a staunch Akali. In this poll time, one should reach the venue on time. Since I am a staunch Akali, I would vote for Akali Dal only come what may. But, see how many have left the venue,” said the 70-year-old Surjit Singh. Palwinder began her speech by saying that Akali Dal always passed through testing times and everytime it passed the tests. She then hit out at AAP and Congress, saying there was intrusion of Bhaiyas (“Bhaiyyan di ghuspeth”) and that Congress had to be shown the door. She then rattled off the populist schemes of the Akali government. “Whatever Badal Sahib has said, he has done it,” she said, also listing promises made in the Akali manifesto.
She said Sukhbir was often mocked at rallies as “gapori” (one who boasts of unreaslitic things), but he did what he said. Palwinder’s sharpest remarks were aimed at traitors. She said in the past, traitors were the first to come along with their woman family members to congratulate her husband after victory and seek forgiveness. “They would put dupattas on the knees, seeking forgiveness once,” she said while urging the gathering to vote for Valtoha before noon on polling day. Sitting MLA of the constituency, Virsa Singh Valtoha, is locked in a triangular contest in Khemkaran with Sukhpal Singh Bhullar of the Congress and Shaurya Chakra winner Captain (retd) Bikramjit Singh Pahuwindia.