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.
“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.
marinder’s campaign in Lambi is led by his son Raninder Singh, while his father, tasked to spearhead Congress to power after 10 years, campaigns across the state.
Not new to the area, Raninder contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency unsuccessfully. He does not miss reminding people about that.
“I have been with you people at that time. But I could not win. I know you supported me but sometimes God has his own designs,” he tells people at his election meetings.
Targeting AAP candidate, he says, “Jarnail Singh tuhade saafe te topi paoni chahunda (he wants to put a cap on your turbans).”
“I am going to camp in Lambi till the election is over. I am addressing 9-12 public meetings every day,” Raninder says.
“My father gave you Bt Cotton. Tell me if you people reaped many, many bales of cotton during those years or not,” he says, adding “when the Congress’s Maharaja forms government, it will mean ‘achhe din’ (good days) for farmers”.
For Badal, the campaign for Lambi started on an ugly note when a youth hurled a shoe at him.
The the veteran of many an electoral battle, however, is unperturbed. He says this time round the election is a fight between “pro-development and destructive forces”.
Badal is confident that people will defeat his political opponents who follow the ideology of “destruction and discrimination”.
“We are winning the elections,” Badal said, voicing confidence that his government’s track record in maintaining peace and communal harmony, besides a determined push to economic development, will stand his party in good stead.