AT A makeshift set-up a few metres from Kamiana Chowk of Faridkot city, two vendors are churning out crisp, piping hot pakoras on a war footing. Some are seen making a hasty exit after piling up plates with steaming fritters while others are seen enjoying them while seated on plastic chairs.
In the background, one can hear Master Baldev Singh — a candidate of the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) and MLA from Jaito constituency of Faridkot — giving a speech. This, he declares, is the opening of his election office.
“I am contesting on a Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) ticket for PDA from Faridkot constituency. I resigned from AAP before joining PEP formally. Now more than 80% of AAP workers are with me and not with the sitting MP of AAP, Prof Sadhu Singh. He had won with a margin of 1.72 lakh votes in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but this time his security deposit will be forfeited,” he tell The Indian Express.
Speaking to the crowd, he says, “This will be our main election office. We have six alliance partners in PDA and hence all will support me. My main competition no doubt will be with Congress, but you all will see the fate of AAP in the coming elections.” AAP remained the target in the speeches given by all alliance partners.
At one point, the pakora party gets so animated that PEP president Sukhpal Singh Khaira, one of the attendees of the office opening, steps in and gets the pakora section closed for sometime. The footfall in the section on Wednesday could easily be in hundreds, but most walked in for the snack and walked out soon after. Even a handful of BSP flags were seen in the crowd.
Baldev Singh tells this newspaper, “I was a primary teacher and took premature retirement four years back. I had participated in the Anna Hazare movement and later joined Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP. I became an MLA from Jaito on AAP ticket, but later found that the party had gotten distracted from its mission. This is the reason that we had to float a new party. Now AAP will be seen nowhere as we are the third front people are looking for.”
Baldev is a JBT teacher and also remained active in teacher union politics when he was serving. He had defeated Congress’ Mohd Sadiq by over 10,000 votes in the 2017 polls. “Our sitting MP Sadhu Singh never gave any grant in my constituency as per my recommendation. He hardly comes out of his house to meet people. People in villages don’t want to see him while Congress failed to fulfill its promises and SAD is nowhere in the scene. So I am sure of winning this seat,” he claims.
The contender says his focus will be on providing clean drinking water, health and the construction of a railway line from Kotkapura to Moga. Development will be the key issue, he repeats several times. “The election manifesto should be made a legal document so that if we fail to deliver, we should be disqualified. Till the time this fear does not come in a leader’s mind, no one will deliver promises.”
In the background, the pakora party continues.