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Thursday, May 26, 2022

The hotbed of protests, Barnala could be AAP’s gamechanger

The district has three constituencies -- Barnala, Mehal Kalan and Bhadaur -- in 2017 all the seats were won by AAP. A look at the three constituencies.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
January 23, 2022 3:35:45 am
During a farmers’ protest in Barnala. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Barnala district was carved out of Sangrur in 2006 and ever since, residents feel that it was created to provide more avenues to politicians. The area is a hotbed of protests over farming issues and often farmer unions organise state-level conventions here. Sewa Singh Thikriwal remained a popular farmer activist during the pre-independence days. The founder of Praja Mandal Movement, he was from Thikriwal village. Other big names from the district are former CM Surjit Singh Barnala, renowned Punjabi novelist and poet Ram Sarup Ankhi, and Karam Singh, the first living recipient of Param Vir Chakra.

The district has three constituencies — Barnala, Mehal Kalan and Bhadaur — in 2017 all the seats were won by AAP. A look at the three constituencies.

Barnala

Barnala has always been at centrestage of protests. It railway station was the spot where people protested the three farm laws since October 1, 2020, till December 15, 2021. Beginning 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the area saw a major shift towards AAP. Locals voted in favour of AAP in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2017 assembly polls.

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Sitting MLA

Meet Hayer (AAP)
Previous MLAs
2012: Kewal Dhillon (Congress)
2007: Kewal Dhillon (Congress)
2002: Malkit Singh Keetu (SAD)

Candidates

While sitting MLA Meet Hayer is AAP’s choice again, SAD has fielded Kulwant Singh Keetu, son of former SAD MLA Malkit Singh Keetu. Congress is yet to announce their candidate and SSM has fielded Abhikaran Singh, a first timer.

Issues

Water-logging even during minor rainfall is a major issue here. The constituency also doesn’t have any super speciality hospital and therefore, during Covid, patients had to rush to Ludhiana or Patiala for better healthcare facilities. There is one aided college in Barnala that too has only humanities stream. Unemployment is also a major issue as only one big industry, Trident, is located here.

Mehal Kalan

A reserved constituency that was earlier popular as Shergarh but was named Mehal Kalan after the 2007 Vidhan Sabha polls. The first election took place here in 2012. Mehal Kalan toll plaza remained a site of pakka dharna during the farm protests.

Sitting MLA

Kulwant Singh Pandori (AAP)
Previous MLAs
2012: Harchand Kaur (Congress)

Candidates

While AAP has fielded Kulwant Singh Pandori again, CPI(ML) Liberation has fielded Gurpreet Singh Rureke. The BSP-SAD alliance, BJP and Congress are yet to announce their candidates here.

Issues

This is a rural constituency and has a major issue of unemployment apart from farm distress. There are no good colleges here that can offer courses related to market demand and so unemployment is on the rise. The constituency also lacks proper healthcare and even the private players hasn’t offered anything significant in the area.

Bhadaur

A reserved constituency where the sitting MLA Peermal Singh Dhaula contested from AAP ticket but in June 2021, he joined Congress. Bhadaur constituency has Muslim vote bank too and this is the reason that various Muslim federations of Punjab, including Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Ludhiana, had asked political parties to take care of the interests of Muslim voters apart from announcing land for a kabristan.

Sitting MLA

Peermal Singh Dhaula
(AAP-Congress)
Previous MLAs
2012: Mohd Sadique (Congress)
2007: Balvir Singh Ghunas (SAD)
2002: Balvir Singh Ghunas (SAD)

Candidates

Former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress has fielded Dharam Singh Fauji, who is a former Congress councillor. AAP fielded Labh Singh Ugoke, a first timer after Peermal left the party. Satnam Singh Rahi is the SAD candidate while Bhagwant Singh Samao, a Mazdoor Union leader is the candidate from CPI(ML) Liberation.

Issues

Lack of proper schools, healthcare has been a problem here. The constituency has also seen a lot of protests by farmers, who apart from protesting the farm laws, are also unhappy with the Congress government.

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