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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Punjab polls: Pind wali rishteydaari, two vidhayak chachas, two bhatijas and a disturbed apple cart

All through the roller-coaster ride that Navjot Singh Sidhu has had since Congress formed government in Punjab in 2017, Smit Singh Mann (30), formerly an international skeet shooter and son of two-time Dhuri MLA Dhanwant Singh Mann, has remained by his side.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: January 28, 2022 2:10:51 pm
Navjot Singh Sidhu and Smit Singh Mann. (File)

He calls Navjot Singh Sidhu his ‘chacha’ (uncle) and in the past four years, has become his shadow.

All through the roller-coaster ride that Sidhu has had since Congress formed government in Punjab in 2017, Smit Singh Mann (30), formerly an international skeet shooter and son of two-time Dhuri MLA Dhanwant Singh Mann, has remained by his side.

Smit had joined Sidhu’s team in 2018 to help him in research and policy making, and is now the Congress nominee from Amargarh seat in Sangrur. His candidature has disturbed the party’s apple cart in the district as it led to revolt from local leaders who were expecting the ticket even as Sidhu is being accused of securing ticket for his ‘bhatija’ (nephew) from Amargarh, by adjusting Jaswinder Singh Dhiman in Sunam. Jaswinder is ‘bhatija’ of Surjit Singh Dhiman, the sitting MLA from Amargarh.

Jaswinder’s candidature has led to revolt by Daaman Bajwa, the Youth Congress national secretary who lost from Sunam in 2017. Mincing no words, Bajwa has said that her ticket has been cut because she doesn’t have “piyo ya chacha mantri MLA (father or uncle as minister or MLA)”.

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Smit clarifies that he and Sidhu do not have blood relation and the only relation that brought them together was that of “common love and dream to see a better Punjab”. “Neither he is my real chacha nor I am his bhatija. I am Mann, he is Sidhu. I joined his team to help him in policy and research when he was the cabinet minister because we both bond over common love for Punjab,” says Smit, who hails from village Manwala of Dhuri.

His father Dhanwant Singh was elected MLA from Dhuri in 1992 on Congress ticket and then in 1997 as an Independent.

Jaswinder Singh Dhiman, nephew of MLA Surjit Dhiman

A skeet shooter who has won seven international medals and a Maharaja Ranjit Singh awardee, Smit says that it is not Sidhu but his own identity as an athlete that has got him the ticket. “I did my postgraduation in South Asian Studies from Oxford University and my entire research work is based on Punjab issues. My father and I have always been connected to people because Amargarh was earlier a part of Dhuri. Why should I not get a chance to serve people of my constituency when I have been active and meeting people here regularly?,” he asks.

Smit, however, explains that his relation with Sidhu is “blood-like” because of the close ties that their families have shared since decades. “My father and Sidhu have been great friends. His father Bhagwant Singh (also a Congress leader) and my father were also great friends. He (Sidhu) comes from village Kakkarwal, also in Dhuri, and because of the neighboring villages, our families have known each other since generations. So it is more of pind wali rishteydaari. I call him (Sidhu) chacha ji because he is very close to my father,” says Smit. “So all those who are saying that chacha got ticket for his bhatija should first see my credentials as an athlete and a scholar”.

Daaman Bajwa, Congress leader denied ticket from Sunam

“I do not have any money. My father lives in his village and does farming. I had a rented house in Panchkula and now I am getting one in my constituency. If I was not deserving, was there any other reason to give me ticket?,” asks Smit, countering fingers being raised on his candidature.

“I am an individual who has got ticket on merit. I am his (Sidhu’s) team member, not his shadow,” says Smit, who has been also leading Sidhu’s in-house ‘Jittega Punjab team’, looking after his social media, campaign strategy and back end works.

Meanwhile Bajwa has declared that she may contest as an Independent. Raising question marks both on Smit and Jaswinder, she announced at a gathering Thursday, “I am not a bhateeji (niece) of any politician. Jey piyo ya chacha mantri MLA na hove, aggey vadhan layi koi raah nahi hunda? (If your father or uncle is not a minister or MLA, then is there no way to progress?) Leader kisey dey sagey nahi hunde (Leaders’ are no one’s own). Earlier we use to pick holes in other parties, today my own mother-like party has cheated me. I will continue to work for people of Sunam. If my father is not a minister, can’t I enter Vidhan Sabha and raise issues of common people? Such betrayals cannot stop me from working for people of Sunam. The battle is on.”

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