Lambi, the pocket borough of five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, is set to witness a ‘battle royale’ in the assembly polls this time with his long-standing Congress rival Amarinder Singh, the scion of erstwhile princely state of Patiala, throwing his hat into the ring.
It is for the first time that Amarinder, the main contender for chief minister’s post if Congress manages to unseat the SAD-BJP combine from power, has entered the fray from the seat, which is set to see a triangular fight with the presence of a resurgent AAP’s Jarnail Singh in the arena.
Amarinder, who is also contesting from Patiala seat, has said he entered the fray from Lambi to “cook Badal’s goose” as he “ruined” Punjab under his stewardship during two consecutive terms of the SAD-BJP dispensation.
“I will teach the Badals a lesson for all their crimes and misdeeds. I will get all cases of sacrilege investigated, and if they (Badals) are found guilty, I will throw them into jail. I will cook Badal’s goose on his home turf,” a confident Amarinder Singh said.Desecration of Sikh holy books is a major issue in the polls.
Though many concede the Badals–Parkash and his deputy chief minister son Sukhbir–have promoted the state’s development, the ruling dispensation faces the daunting task of neutralising any anti-incumbency factor that may be at work and frustrate its attempt to form government for third term running.
Both Badal Sr and Amarinder, however, are rarely seen in the constituency as they go about stumping across the state.
Unlike earlier occasions when the contest for Lambi was straight, the entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP in the state assembly polls for the first time has spiced up the fight. The 89-year-old Badal Sr has represented the seat four times in the past.
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“I am contesting from Lambi as I want to teach a lesson to those who have looted and ruined Punjab. I will make a man out of him (Badal),” said Amarinder Singh, who turns 75 in March and has announced that this is the last election of his life.
Jarnail Singh, a former journalist, who was a member of the Delhi Assembly but resigned to contest from Lambi, had first shot into limelight in 2009 when he hurled a shoe at the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in Delhi.
“Badal nahin badlav (not Badal but change)” is the slogan that the Aam Aadmi Party has coined for the Assembly polls.
Kejriwal, who launched his party’s campaign months ahead of the polls, has accused Amarinder of having entered the fray from Lambi to facilitate Parkash Singh Badal’s victory.
“Once everyone realised that Jarnail Singh’s campaign was going great, Badal requested Amarinder Singh to contest from Lambi too so the anti-Akali votes get divided,” Kejriwal claimed. Badal Sr appears in for a tough contest ahead in Lambi, which is part of the Bathinda parliamentary constituency represented in the Lok Sabha by his daughter-in-law and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur.
Affluence is writ large in their native Badal village, which resembles the European countryside with pine tree lined streets, landscaped water bodies and roadside benches where one could unwind.
With access to underground sewerage and water lines, there is nothing the village does not seem to have.
Yet, the people here see AAP as a strong contender.
“There is no disputing the claims of Badals that they have brought development – not just here but everywhere in Punjab. But this time people want change,” said Chhina Singh, a Badal resident.
Just a few kilometers from Badal, Kolianwali village has orange flags aflutter on rooftops, as far as one can see, and so are SAD election symbol ‘Tarazu’ (the weighing balance). But here, too, the sentiment is much the same.
“Who should we vote for? They are all the same. But this time we have an option,” said one of the residents.
“They know we have delivered a corruption-free government in Delhi. They are tired of the Badals and their only option so far has been Captain (Amarinder Singh of Congress). Now they have AAP,” says Jarnail.
AAP has pulled out all the stops in Lambi. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held five rallies in the constituency on Friday last week. “He will do five more,” said Jarnail, brushing aside SAD and Congress’ claim of him being an “outsider”.
Amarinder loyalists, however, are confident of the “captain’s” victory.
“This part of the state is still a feudal society, where royalty is an attraction. They would want to see a personality to take on Badal. Maharaja is an apt tag for that. It is akin to a lion king. Also, it is a chief minister-in-waiting taking on the incumbent chief minister,” Jagpal Singh Abulkhurana, who was a contender for the ticket till Amarinder, the state Congress chief, threw his hat into the ring, said.