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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Punjab elections 2022: In farm union hotbed Moga, big test for Akalis

With three of its four constituencies primarily rural, Moga presents challenge for SAD which failed to win even a single seat in the district in 2017 election.

Written by Divya Goyal |
Updated: January 16, 2022 11:44:14 am
Punjab Congress MLA from Moga Dr Harjot Kamal joined the BJP in Chandigarh. (Express photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

A centrally located district in the heart of Punjab, Moga is the hotbed of farmers and farm union activities. Three of its four Assembly segments are rural, dominated by farming households and it is also a hub of rice shellers.

In 2017, however, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which claims that majority of its support base comes from farming community, faced a rout in Moga and failed to win even a single seat from here. Akali veteran jathedar Tota Singh, a close confidant of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and his son Barjinder Singh Makhan Brar, both faced defeat from their respective seats. While three seats were won by Congress, one went to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Politically, all roads lead to Moga for political parties during elections as they prefer to begin their campaign from here with a mega rally due its locational advantage. Moga, due to its central location in Punjab, is approachable from all districts of Majha, Doaba and Malwa regions.

The entry of Malvika Sood Sachar, sister of actor Sonu Sood, in Moga’s political scene, has made the battle interesting here.

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But even as Moga was granted district status way back in 1995 (earlier part of Faridkot district), the residents continue to face multiple civic issues – from stray cattle menace to illegal sand mining among others.

Here is a look at its four Assembly segments:

– MOGA

Total voters: 2.02 lakh

Male: 1.06 lakh

Female: 95, 402

Sitting MLA: Dr Harjot Kamal (INC)

2013 : Joginder Pal Jain (SAD) (Jain switched to SAD necessitating the bypoll and then won on SAD ticket)

2012: Joginder Pal Jain (INC)

2007: Joginder Pal Jain (INC)

2002: Tota Singh (SAD)

1997: Tota Singh (SAD)

CANDIDATES:

SAD is betting on Barjinder Singh alias Makhan Brar, son of Akali veteran Tota Singh, from here. He had lost to Harjot Kamal of Congress in 2017. In fact, he was placed third with debutant AAP’s Ramesh Grover getting more votes than Akali Dal. AAP has announced Dr Amandeep Kaur Arora, state vice-president of party’s women’s wing, as candidate from here.

Moga contest is being keenly watched because sitting MLA Dr Harjot Kamal has revolted against his own party and joined BJP after Congress announced the ticket for Malvika Sood. Kamal is likely to contest on BJP ticket now. Farmers’ political front Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM) has declared Navdeep Sangha, a former AAP leader and a liquor contractor, as its candidate from Moga.

ISSUES:

A mix of urban and rural areas, Moga constituency consists of Moga city and some villages. Even as Moga was announced a Municipal Corporation (MC) in 2015, civic issues such as overflowing sewage, stray cattle, poor condition of parks and green belts and bad roads continue to plague the city. An indoor stadium, lying unused, is also proving to be a white elephant for the administration. Despite government’s push in education sector, Moga still has single teacher government schools and those without buildings. The district Civil Hospital lacks ventilators, MRI and other basic facilities. Law and order is a concern with many gangsters held for making ransom calls to businessmen and executing murders in the past five years.

– Nihal Singh Wala (Reserved)

Total voters: 1.97 lakh

Male: 1.05 lakh

Female: 91,306

Sitting MLA: Manjit Singh (AAP)

2012: Rajwinder Kaur Baghike (SAD)

2007: Ajit Singh (IND)

2002: Zora Singh (SAD)

1997: Ajaib Singh (CPI)

CANDIDATES:

AAP has announced its sitting MLA Manjit Singh, a former journalist and a writer, as its candidate. In five years of his term, he was constantly accused by voters of remaining absent from his constituency and being a ‘non-performer’. SAD has announced Baldev Singh Manuke, an ex-serviceman. He is a local from village Manuke of the constituency. Bhupendra Sahoke, a former Punjab police cop and an ex-Akali leader, has been given Congress ticket.

ISSUES:

Even as Nihal Singh Wala has been given the status of a sub-division, it doesn’t have a dedicated building for administrative works. Sewage is a major issue. A stadium built around a decade ago in 12 acres is lying unused without any sports facilities or coach. Government health facilities are poor and there is no degree college. A sewage treatment plant project which was proposed a decade back is still on papers.

– Baghapurana

Total voters: 1.70 lakh

Male: 91,178

Female: 79,118

Sitting MLA: Darshan Singh Brar (INC)

2012: Maheshinder Singh (SAD)

2007: Darshan Singh Brar (INC)

2002: Sadhu Singh Rajeana (SAD)

1997: Sadhu Singh Rajeana (SAD)

CANDIDATES:

SAD has declared Tirath Singh Mahla, party’s Moga district president, as candidate from this rural constituency. He had lost in 2017 from here, and was placed third after Congress’s Brar and AAP’s GB Kang. AAP has given ticket to Amritpal Singh Sukhanand, a first-timer. Sitting MLA Darshan Singh Brar has been given Congress ticket again. His son was accused of running illegal stone crushing and mining business by SAD.

ISSUES:

Sewage lines project lying incomplete since six years, overflows into residential areas and grain market. It was announced to develop a park in 18-acre area of a dirty pond but the project is still on papers. The local government community health centre is being run by a single doctor with no specialist doctors and no emergency services in the night. Residents are paying toll tax for state highway even as road is in very bad state and many lives have been lost due to accidents.

– Dharamkot

Total voters: 1.80 lakh

Male: 95767

Female: 85073

Sitting MLA: Sukhjit Singh Kaka Lohgarh (INC)

2012: Tota Singh (SAD)

2007: Sheetal Singh (SAD)

2002: Sheetal Singh (SAD)

1997: Sheetal Singh (SAD)

CANDIDATES:

SAD veteran Tota Singh (80) will once again contest from here. He had lost to Sukhjit Singh Kaka Lohgarh of Congress in 2017 but had secured more votes than AAP’s Daljeet Singh and was placed second. AAP has announced Devinder Jeet Singh Laddi Dhos, a former Youth Congress leader, as its candidate. He is son of Kuldeep Dhos, a former SGPC member. Congress has announced sitting MLA Lohgarh as candidate again.

ISSUES:

Drugs is a major issue in Dharamkot. Its village Daulewala is infamous as a drug haven and youth from far away places allegedly throng this village to buy heroin and other drugs. Located near the banks of Sutlej river, illegal mining is damaging dhussi bandhs of this area and its leads to flooding in villages almost every year, leading to widespread loss for poor families. Unemployment attracts youth of Dharamkot towards drugs. New Bus stand and stadium projects are lying incomplete.

MOGA district – A glance

Total electors: 7.50 lakh

Male: 3.99 lakh

Female: 3.50 lakh

Third gender: 36

Electors in 18-19 age group: 8854

80 plus electors: 16451

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