Harsimrat faces spicy rivals in Bathinda bastion

Incumbent Bathinda Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is looking for fourth straight victory this time, faces a tough electoral battle in a polygonal battle in Akalis stronghold.

In 2014, Harsimrat defeated Congressman Preet Badal by 19,000 votes, while in the 2019 polls, her margin of victory against Congress MP Amarinder Singh Raja Warring was 21,000 votes.

Harsimrat, 57, is pitted against Gurmeet Singh Khudian, 61, of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu, 60, of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Parampal Kaur Sidhu, 59, an IAS -turned-politician. A gangster-turned-politician, Lakhwinder Singh, alias Lakha Sidhana, 45, who is contesting on the SAD (Amritsar) ticket, can also influence the election calculations.

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Currently, all nine assembly segments of the Bathinda LS chair are present: Bathinda Urban, Bathinda Rural, Maur, Talwandi Sabo, Bhucho Mandi in Bathinda; Mansa, Sardulgarh, Budhlada in Mansa and Lambi in Muktsar district are represented by the AAP.

In the last two elections, Harsimrat’s margin of victory remained around 20,000 votes, and the multi-faceted battle will test the Akalis’ election management. In 2014, Harsimrat defeated Congress’ Manpreet Badal by 19,000 votes, while in the 2019 polls, Harsimrat’s margin of victory against Congress’ Amarinder Singh Raja Warring was 21,000 votes.

Barring Harsimrat, the only member of the Badal family to contest the elections this time, the other four leading candidates in the fray are newcomers. Four-time MLA Jeetmohinder is the most experienced among the contenders. The BJP is contesting for the first time from Bathinda, a predominantly rural parliamentary seat.

SAD hopes panthic pitch will bear fruit

The SAD, which has been pushed to the margins in the state, is pushing hard to retain the seat and hopes to gain support for the party’s call to reinstate Punjab’s only regional party, which represents the Sikh panth strengthen.

Two of the SAD leaders, ex-MLAs from Bathinda Urban Sarup Chand Singla and Jeetmohinder from Talwandi Sabo, quit the party in protest against the Akali leadership and are likely to influence votes in their two key segments. Similarly, Akali stalwart Sikander Singh Maluka, whose daughter-in-law Parampal is contesting on the BJP ticket, is staying away from election activities, leaving the party worried about the possible dent in its political base in Maur and other segments.

Harsimrat, a former union minister, talks a lot about the establishment of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), which was inaugurated in December 2019; the Central University of Punjab (CUP) established in 2009 and an oil refinery under the PPP (Public Private Partnership) established in 2007 as her achievements for the development of Bathinda. She is addressing AAP regarding the issue of drug menace and deteriorating fiscal health of the state under the current political policies. The sitting MP is trying to strike an emotional chord by crediting late Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal for implementing a slew of social welfare schemes and introducing development projects.

Khudian takes advantage of AAP’s welfare schemes

Khudian, the main opponent of Harsimrat, who won from Badals’ Lambi constituency and defeated five-time chief minister late Parkash Singh Badal in the 2022 Assembly elections, is banking on the AAP government’s welfare initiatives.

Khudian talks about his late father Jagdev Singh Khudian’s image as an honest leader and urges support for his clean image as the state’s agriculture minister.

He is relying heavily on the welfare initiatives of the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab government, especially 600 units of free electricity, mohalla clinics and education in government schools, to woo voters. Amid anti-incumbency against the state government, Khudian is also banking on the network of ruling AAP legislators in the constituency even as his election campaign faced opposition from the farmer unions irked by a delay in compensation for crop loss as due to a hailstorm and a tornado. and livestock deaths early this year.

Parampal relies on Modi’s magic and his family’s legacy

Parampal, who is facing the wrath of farmer unions, blames the AAP and the SAD for trying to disrupt her election activities in the garb of aggrieved farmers. She mentions the political legacy of father-in-law Maluka and husband Gurpreet Maluka. She considers the ‘Modi Wala Card’, or free medical treatment under the Ayushman Bharat scheme and financial support to farmers, as the Centre’s most important initiative. Backed by the top party leadership, Parampal refutes Harsimrat’s claims that all major projects in Bathinda were planned and financed by the central government. She calls for ousting the SAD as the family-oriented leadership has overlooked the issues of the masses.

Jeetmohinder faces opposition within the party

Jeetmohinder’s candidature caused heartburn among Congress members as a party hopper, who joined the party in October last year, was dealt with by overlooking the ticket claims of the old guard.

Basing himself on the prospects of the INDI Alliance at the national level, he is aggressively touring the villages to strengthen his support base.

Lakha Sidhana, a popular face among a section of the rural belt, is trying to consolidate the support of the villagers against the AAP government. As a candidate of a radical Sikh political party, Sidhana is likely to woo the anti-Akali vote share.

Candidates from SAD, BJP and Congress are looking for votes to strengthen the political base of their respective leadership at the national level, while adding that their victory would be a prelude to the formation of the next state government.

Besides the conventional election activities of holding rallies in the rural and urban areas in the nine assembly segments spread across Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar districts, candidates are making extensive use of social platforms to reach out to voters with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius.