Two of Badal clan lock horns in Akali bastion

Two members of the Badal clan, one a sitting MP and other an estranged family member are locked in a high-pitched battle of ballots for the Bathinda seat, a stronghold of the ruling Akalis, where entry of a namesake candidate is turning the contest complex.

Sitting MP of Akali Dal Harsimrat Kaur and her brother-in-law Manpreet Singh Badal – are facing each other in the Malwa heartland of the state considered to be a bastion of the ruling Akalis. Manpreet, a former finance minister, founder president of Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) is, however, a candidate of the Congress. 

He is slugging it out against his cousin and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife in her stronghold on a Congress ticket with backing from CPI and SAD (Barnala).

However, among his rivals is another Manpreet Singh Badal who is in the fray as an independent with ‘Kite as his election symbol, which previously was with the PPP.

Namesake  

PPP Supremo Manpreet says that the 34-year-old namesake candidate has been propped up to confuse voters. 

While the independent Manpreet is understood to have tacit support from Akalis, the estranged member from Badal clan boasts that he is the only one, who is as popular as Manpreet Singh Badal.

The independent candidate, who also hails from Badal village, says “I have all the right to contest elections, so what if my name is the same as the other candidate.”

The 2014 polls will be the third general elections when the Congress and the CPI are contesting as partners from Bathinda seat which was a reserved constituency till 2004.

Earlier, the Congress and CPI had joined hands in 1971 and 1999 and emerged winners. With the Congress, PPP and CPI putting up a united fight this time, the constituency is set to witness a bipolar contest between the Congress and the SAD.

“The contest is against the system headed by the Punjab CM and Deputy CM and represented in Bathinda by the CM's daughter-in-law,” opines Manpreet adding that “when you fight individuals, the contest is easy, but once you take on the system, the challenge becomes more interesting.”

However, Manpreet also does not see it to be a mere family fight in a political arena.

Political fight

“It is a political fight against corruption, nepotism, drug mafia, property and tax mafia,” he said. The contest is also a prestige fight for Manpreet as he and his PPP had badly lost the 2012 Assembly polls. Manpreet too lost his traditional Gidderbaha seat.Harsimrat, who canvasses for at least 14 to 15 hours a day, sees no competition before her.

Parent party stabbed

“My rival stabbed his parent party (SAD) and the Badal family,” she said. “I am contesting with a person who could not even win his own seat in the Assembly polls and a man who stabbed his parent party to form PPP and then merge with the Congress,” Harsimrat, seeking another term, said.
Harsimrat enjoys lot of political clout. Even her staunch critics credit her for creating a niche in national politics by championing the cause of girl child through the Nanhi Chhaan campaign and her no-holds-barred attacks on the Congress in Parliament.

But for Manpreet it is a different story and he counters his Akali rival saying, “I have delivered both as a four-time MLA and former finance minister rather than a candidate who resides in Delhi and has failed miserably.”

If voted, Manpreet claimed, he will be able to articulate issues of Bathinda and Punjab better than anyone else at the national level.

However, the contest on this seat in Malwa heartland of the state will have a bearing of an undercurrent of anti- incumbency against SAD-BJP government in Punjab, as well as the UPA government at the Centre. 

The total electors in the constituency is close to 14.96 lakh, including 6.98 lakh females.In 2009 polls, Harsimrat defeated Congress stalwart Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh by over a one lakh margin of votes. The Bathinda seat had been won by SAD six time since 1971, while Congress could taste victory in 1980 and 1992 only.

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