Bathinda fight dominates Punjab (Poll Curtainraiser - Punjab)

May 6th, 2009 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, May 6 (IANS) Four out of Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha constituencies go to the polls Thursday but all eyes are on the Bathinda constituency. For, the state’s two leading political families are locked in a do-or-die fight for this seat, putting at stake the personal prestige of both sides.

Raninder Singh, the son of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, is the Congress candidate on this seat pitted against Harsimrat Kaur, wife of Akali Dal president and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Though both the candidates are in the fray, the fight is more between Amarinder Singh on one side and the father-son duo of Badals on the other.

This is the first time that both the families, which have been involved in a bitter power struggle in the state, are in a direct face-off in an election and neither side is willing to let go.

The result of this bitter fight is that Amarinder Singh from the Congress and Akali leaders including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal have been forced to spend most of their time on the Bathinda seat.

Bathinda, which got de-reserved after delimitation last year, has over 1.33 million voters, with over 631,000 being women.

The other three constituencies in Punjab that go to the polls Thursday in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the country are Patiala, Sangrur and Ferozepur.

Out of the total electorate of over 16.8 million, 5.25 million will cast their votes in this phase of polling.

The main contest in the state is between an upbeat Congress on one hand and the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance on the other. The election is also being seen as a test for Sukhbir Badal as this is the first time the party of ageing leaders is facing elections under a young president.

If Amarinder Singh has opened a new front in Bathinda against the Akalis, he also has to ensure that he manages to retain his home turf of Patiala from where his wife, Preneet Kaur, is seeking re-election for the third time.

Amarinder is a descendant of the ertwhile Patiala royal family and lives in his palace in Patiala town, 70 km from Chandigarh.

In Sangrur, veteran Akali leader and former union sports and chemicals minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa faces a challenge from a much younger opponent in Vijay Inder Singla of the Congress. Singla will have to put up an outstanding show to dislodge Dhindsa from here.

In the border constituency of Ferozepur, Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar faces Sher Singh Ghubia of the Akali Dal. Brar got a shot in the arm with last week’s successful rally by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Jalalabad town, which forms part of the constituency.

The remaining nine Lok Sabha constituencies in Punjab go to polls May 13.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

-Indo-Asian News Service

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