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Punjab Polls: In Capt Amarinder’s bastion, a battle defined by royalty, and shifting loyalties

Led-by Amarinder who was then the party's CM face, Congress's victory march in Punjab polls 2017 was spearheaded by Patiala district where it won seven of eight Assembly segments while one went to Shiromani Akali Dal. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had failed to open its account in Patiala in 2017.

Work on to repair and clean Chotti and Badi Nadi, in Patiala. (Express Photo by Harmeet Sodhi)

The erstwhile princely state of Patiala has been the political bastion of two-time former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh, an ex-serviceman and the descendant of Patiala’s Royal family. Still addressed as Maharaja Sahib by his loyalists, Amarinder’s father Yadavindra Singh was the last ruler of Patiala.

Led-by Amarinder, who was then the party’s CM face, Congress’s victory march in Punjab polls 2017 was spearheaded by Patiala district where it won seven of eight Assembly segments while one went to Shiromani Akali Dal. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had failed to open its account in Patiala in 2017.

But five years later, and ahead of 2022 polls, the Congress and Amarinder are now pitted against each and all eyes are now on Patiala, which was once a cakewalk for the ruling party. With Amarinder forming his own Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) after his unceremonious exit from the Congress, the local leaders and workers in Patiala are now divided into two camps.

The unprecedented turn of events in Congress and Amarinder’s exit from the party has also given a ray of hope to AAP and SAD who are now trying to revive their fortunes in Patiala.

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A six-time MLA, Amarinder’s four terms were from Patiala urban. A two-time MP, once he was also elected Lok Sabha MP from Patiala. His wife Preneet Kaur is a four-time MP and one-time MLA from Patiala. This time Amarinder’s PLC is contesting on five seats in Patiala while three would be fought by its alliance partner BJP.

One major issue that residents of at least three constituencies continue to face is the destruction that Ghaggar river brings every year. The river overflows during monsoon and submerges crops in at least 60 villages of Ghanaur, Shutrana and Samana. Locals say that for the past 50 years, politicians are asking for votes with a promise to solve Ghaggar issue but nothing has been done.

Patiala urban

The constituency has several landmarks and important heritage buildings including Qila Mubarak, Sheesh Mahal, Rajindra Hospital, Government Mohindra College, Moti Bagh Palace (Amarinder’s residence) etc. Even as many development projects were started here, being the constituency of former Punjab CM, they are stalled now with the exit of Amarinder from the top post.

Issues

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The city continues to face waterlogging issues during rains and areas such as Safabadi Gate, Anardana chowk etc remain submerged in monsoons. Drainage system in interiors completely fails during monsoon. The project to shift dairies operating in residential areas is also hanging fire. Rajindra Hospital and Government Medical College and Hospital continue to suffer from staff shortage and critical patients are referred to PGIMER Chandigarh. The projects including setting up of heritage street, multi-crore canal-based water supply project, rejuvenation of Chhoti Nadi and Badi Nadi, dairy shifting project and renovation of Rajindra Lake are hanging fire.

Sitting MLA

Captain Amarinder Singh (INC)

Previous MLAs

2012, 2007, 2002: Amarinder Singh (INC)

1997: Surjit Singh Kohli (SAD)

Candidates

Captain Amarinder Singh has announced that he will once again contest from Patiala Urban (erstwhile Patiala Town) from his new party PLC. Six-time MLA, Amarinder won four consecutive terms from here from 2002 to 2017. Two other times, he was MLA from Samana (also in Patiala) and Talwandi Sabo. His wife Preneet Kaur has been four-time Patiala MP (1999, 2004, 2009 and 2019). In 2014, she was defeated by AAP’s Dharamvir Gandhi but the same year she bounced back and won Patiala urban bypoll, necessitated after Amarinder’s win from Amritsar in Lok Sabha polls.

Congress has fielded Vishu Sharma, former Mayor of Patiala, against Amarinder. Sharma had quit Congress due to differences with Amarinder but PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu welcomed him again in the party after the former CM’s exit. SAD has fielded Harpal Juneja, an advocate and a Youth Akali Dal leader. He is a first-timer. His father Bhagwan Dass Juneja had lost Patiala bypoll to Preneet Kaur in 2014. AAP has fielded Ajit Pal Kohli, former Mayor of Patiala, who defected from SAD to AAP.

Patiala rural

The constituency came into existence after delimitation in 2012.

Issues

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A rain water rivulet ‘Chhoti Nadi’ that merges into Badi Nadi, is a major headache for residents of Patiala rural as it has turned into garbage dump and sewage disposal body, leading to water contamination in the area. Widening of Patiala-Sirhind road, repairing potholed roads and rejuvenation of Badi Nadi are major demands of the locals who say that despite their MLA Brahm Mohindra’s elevation as Cabinet minister, nothing much has been done for area’s development. There is no government hospital with good facilities and people are forced to travel to Patiala city.

Sitting MLA

Brahm Mohindra (INC)

Previous MLA

2012: Brahm Mohindra (INC)

Candidates

Congress has fielded Mohit Mohindra, son of six-time MLA and Cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra. AAP nominee is Dr Balbir Singh, who had contested 2017 polls from Patiala urban and faced defeat. Jaspal Singh Bittu Chatha, a former councillor, is SAD nominee. PLC has fielded Sanjeev Bittu, the incumbent mayor of Patiala who switched from Congress to the party.

Samana

A largely rural constituency, it lacks educational institutions in vicinity and students mostly travel to Patiala for studies.
Issues

The overflowing Ghaggar river in monsoons which destroys crops of farmers, also passes through some villages of this constituency. Lack of employment opportunities for youths is another issue.

Sitting MLA
Rajinder Singh (INC)

Previous MLAs

2012: Surjit Singh Rakhra (SAD)
2007: Brahm Mohindra (INC)
2002: Surjit Singh Rakhra (SAD)
1997: Jagtar Singh Rajla (SAD)

Candidates:

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Congress has re-nominated Rajinder Singh, son of senior party leader Lal Singh. SAD nominee is Surjit Singh Rakhra, a former minister who lost from here in 2017. AAP has nominated Chetan Singh Jouramajra, a local party worker and a first-timer. Surinder Singh Kherki, former secretary Punjab Congress, is PLC nominee.

Nabha (SC)

The semi-urban seat is home to three crucial prisons of Punjab jails department — the Maximum Security Jail where the most dreaded criminals are lodged from across the state, New District Jail and Open Jail. It is known for infamous 2016-Nabha jailbreak.

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Issues

Pathetic roads, lack of clean drinking water and underground sewage, unemployment and poor solid waste management are the key issues. Locals complain that garbage is not lifted in time and sewage, drains are not regularly cleaned.

Sitting MLA

Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (INC)

Previous MLAs

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2012: Sadhu Dharamsot (INC)
2007, 2002: Randeep Singh Nabha (INC)
1997: Narinder Singh (SAD)

Candidates

Congress has again fielded Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, a former minister. He was alleged to be involved in the multi-crore post matric scholarship scam, but was later given clean chit by the government in 2020. SAD has re-nominated Babu Kabir Dass, a former Congress leader and former deputy mayor of Patiala, who shifted to the party in 2016. He lost from here in 2017 on SAD ticket. AAP too re-nominated Gurdev Singh Dev Mann, a former Punjabi singer, actor and Canada-return NRI, who lost in 2017. Gurpeet Singh Shahpura, son of former SAD MLA Balwant Singh Shahpura, is the BJP nominee.

Shutrana (SC)

The largely rural seat is on the boil over Ghaggar river issue and overflowing Chhoti Nadi that brings garbage from Patiala city along. Voters say that for the past five decades, politicians are asking for votes promising solution to Ghaggar and Chhoti Nadi issues but nothing has been done on the ground.

Issues

Cleaning Choti Nadi, management of Ghaggar river, unemployment, lack of health and education facilities are the major poll issues here.

Sitting MLA
Nirmal Singh (INC)

Previous MLAs

2012: Vaninder Kaur Loomba (SAD)
2007: Nirmal Singh (INC,)
2002: Nirmal Singh (SAD)
1997: Gurdev Singh Sidhu (SAD)

Candidates

Congress has dropped sitting MLA Nirmal Singh in favour of Darbar Singh Banwala, a former excise officer and a first-timer. SAD has re-nominated Vaninder Kaur Loomba, a former MLA. AAP has fielded Kulwant Singh Bazigar, a first-timer. PLC nominee is Naryan Singh Narsot, a former Punjab Police ASI and a first-timer.

Rajpura

The semi-urban constituency with the main town of Rajpura, it came into limelight in 2020 when illegal liquor factories were busted here. SAD and Congress blamed each other for alleged involvement in liquor mafia.

Issues

Illegal sand mining and liquor trade are major issues. AAP had alleged that local MLA Hardial Singh Kamboj was hands in glove with liquor mafia after an illegal distillery was busted in 2020. Many illegal liquor factories cropped up in Rajpura during lockdown, allege residents.

Sitting MLA

Hardial Singh Kamboj (INC)

Previous MLAs

2012: Hardial Singh Kamboj (INC)
2007, 2002: Raj Khurana (BJP, INC)
1997: Balram Dass (BJP)

Candidates:

Congress has again fielded Hardial Singh Kamboj, a two-time MLA. SAD has nominated Charanjit Singh Brar, political secretary to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who had also joined Manpreet Badal’s PPP but later returned to Akali Dal. AAP has fielded Neena Mittal, party’s woman wing leader who lost Lok Sabha polls from Patiala in 2019. Jagdish Kumar Jagga, a local social activist who contested as an Independent in 2017, is the BJP nominee.

Ghanaur

A rural seat that shares its borders with Haryana, is now infamous for rampant illegal mining in Ghaggar belt.

Issues

Illegal sand mining, overflowing Ghaggar river which leads to flooding in villages and submerging of crops and brings diseases for locals due to its polluted water, are the main issues. Locals want canal based water supply project to be completed at the earliest which is hanging fire.

Sitting MLA

Madan Lal Jalalpur (INC)

Previous MLAs

2012: Harpreet Kaur Mukhmailpura (SAD)
2007: Madan Lal Jalapur (IND)
2002: Jasjit Singh (INC)
1997: Ajaib Mukhmailpura (SAD)

Candidates:

Congress has again fielded Madan Lal Jalalpur, who was among the first MLAs to shift to Navjot Sidhu’s camp in run-up to Amarinder’s ouster from government and party. SAD has fielded three-time former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra from Ghanaur. AAP nominee is Gurlal Singh Ghanaur, a kabaddi player. BJP has fielded Vikas Sharma, party’s district president Patiala North. Sanyukt Samaj Morcha has fielded Prem Singh Bhangu, an advocate.

Sanour

A rural seat, it was the only seat in Patiala district which did not elect Congress legislator but went to SAD in 2017.

Issues:

Bad roads, lack of health and educational facilities, lack of waste segregation and solid waste management are the main issues. Garbage dumps are an eyesore in the town.

Sitting MLA

2017: Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra (SAD)

Previous MLA

2012: Lal Singh (INC)

Candidates

SAD has again fielded Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra, son of three-time former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra. Congress has fielded Harinder Pal Singh Harry Mann, a former state information commissioner, who lost from here in 2017. AAP nominee is Harmeet Singh Pathanmajra, who contested as an Independent in 2017 but lost. Earlier, he was also with SAD, Congress and Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP). Bikramjeet Inder Chahal, son of Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, a close aide and advisor to Captain Amarinder Singh, is PLC nominee.

First published on: 30-01-2022 at 03:07:41 am
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