The Tribune – High-stakes battle for Punjab

Captain needs to ensure big win to retain position, Sukhbir to revive SAD

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. It’s a direct fight between the Congress and SAD-BJP in 12 of the 13 constituencies in Punjab, which go the polls on Sunday. The Congress is grappling with anti-incumbency and the Akalis sacrilege ‘taint’, even as the voter is unusually quiet.

This Lok Sabha election is a litmus test for both Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. For Captain Amarinder, an impressive tally will help him retain his position as the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress, especially when his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa are pointing a finger at him.

For Sukhbir, a creditable performance is necessary to revive his party that suffered an ignominious defeat in the 2017 Assembly elections. He and his wife Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal are contesting from Ferozepur and Bathinda.

Sangrur is the only seat where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the reckoning. Here AAP state chief Bhagwant Mann is locked in a triangular fight with Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon and SAD’s Parminder Singh Dhindsa.

Gurdaspur, Patiala, Bathinda and Ferozepur seats are expected to see a keen contest. The fight in Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib will be interesting too.

This has been a campaign high on rhetoric and optics with Congress and BJP top guns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi – holding impressive rallies in support of party candidates.

What was unique in these elections was assertive voters posing uncomfortable questions to candidates, demanding greater development and more jobs. On the back foot initially over the 2015 sacrilege incidents, especially in Malwa, the Akalis managed to bounce back by raking up the anti-Sikh riots, making it a 1984 versus Bargari contest.

Observers fear that a ‘disconnect’ between voters and candidates could mean only dedicated cadres of each party reaching the polling booths with fence-sitters choosing to abstain.

The Hindu – Panthic issues rule Bathinda campaign

It’s a tough test for Harsimrat Kaur

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 May 2019. The campaign for the Lok Sabha election has gained pace in Punjab’s Bathinda, the stronghold of the Badal family of the Shiromani Akali Dal, with “Panthic” (Sikh) issues dominating the discourse.

The ruling Congress is attacking the Akali Dal by raising the pardon granted to the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing in 2015, which followed the Bargari sacrilege.

The sitting MP and Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, of the Akali Dal is raking up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

At Bathinda recently, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh raised the issue of “sacrilege” when the Akali Dal and the BJP ruled the State.

People would punish Ms Badal for her “arrogance” and the cases of “sacrilege”, he said.

“People have not forgotten Bargari or Kotkapura, which were a brazen attempt by the Badals to create communal tensions,” he said.

For Ms Badal, the two-time MP, the election is a litmus test. She highlights her work for the State and the Sikh community, and the “anti-incumbency” factor against the ruling Congress. “I have taken up issues of Punjab as well as the Sikh community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always reacted positively to my demands,” she said after filing her nomination earlier this week. Ms Badal said Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had delayed the AIIMS and Ladhowal mega food park projects.

Ms Badal accused the Congress of weakening the case of the Sikh community by defending the accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. On the other hand, she said, the NDA government had established a SIT to probe the cases and had reopened some cases to deliver justice.

The Congress has fielded Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, the MLA for Gidderbaha.