Unorthodox candidates add zing to Punjab polls

A worker winnows wheat at a grain market in Amritsar. PTI file photo for representation

 A murder convict selling Maggi, a roadside vendor offering spicy burgers, a daily wager, a Sikh priest defrauded by chit fund companies and an auto-rickshaw driver who lost both his sons to drugs are some unconventional contenders adding zing to the poll campaign in Punjab. 

Two windows in the poll fray from Bathinda are driving home the message of farmers' distress and suicide. Veerpal Kaur’s husband, her father and father-in-law committed suicide owing to heavy farm debt. Her covering candidate, 53-year-old Manjit Kaur’s husband, Sukhdev Singh, also committed suicide. The two women, who too are under heavy farm debt, went door-to-door collecting money to pay security at the time of filing their nominations. 

In the streets of Patiala, “Chacha Maggi-wala” is famous. Its owner, 55-year old Jasbir Singh, is a murder convict, has served a jail term and now sells hot Maggi. He is contesting his second election as an Independent from Patiala and has declared assets of Rs 2.95 crore. 

Shyam Lal Gandhhiwadi, 36, can be seen paddling the streets of Amritsar on his bicycle along with his wife seeking votes. A daily-wager, Shyam Lal has unsuccessfully contested eight elections earlier. He says his fight is against the super-rich candidates fielded by political parties.

Bhola Singh, a 43-year-old Sikh priest, is a victim of fraud by chit fund companies and is now contesting elections from Faridkot. He claims there are lakhs of people who have been duped by chit fund companies. He says he invested Rs 4.5 lakh in a company which promised to double his amount, but instead fled.

Turbaned Sikh Mohinder Singh, 77, sporting a free-flowing grey beard drives an auto-rickshaw on the streets of holy city Amritsar. When he lost both his sons to the drug menace, his world came crashing down. So the father decided to throw his hat in the ring and fight elections as an Independent to uproot drugs from Punjab. 

In the heart of Ludhiana, ‘Mr Singh’ is a popular roadside burger joint and its owner, 30-year old Ravinder Pal Singh, has pasted his manifesto on his stall. While he serves burgers and chats to his customers to seek votes, his two guards — provided to candidates by the authorities — stand by performing their duty. 

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