CHANDIGARH: It’s a cocktail of explosive issues on which Malwa goes to polls next Sunday — from drugs to sacrilege, lack of development, war shadow, and Mazhabi Sikhs versus Ramdasias, among others. In the ring are a curious mix of men and women — from a standup comedian to former bureaucrats and the grandson of a former chief minister.
In Ferozepur, Shiromani Akali Dal president and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is locked in a pitched fight with Congress candidate Sher Singh Ghubaya, who was till recently the SAD MP from this very seat.
The Akali camp hoped Ferozepur would spare their chief the trauma of a debate over sacrilege. But not only has the sacrilege issue been revived, the blot on the SAD-BJP regime for allegedly patronising the drug mafia also remains.
The lone strong point in favour of Sukhbir is that the alliance has won this seat five consecutive times. Ghubaya has his own share of problems. Since he has joined the party recently, local leaders and cadres are shunning his campaign.
In neighbouring Faridkot, Akalis are on the backfoot as the constituency was the very epicentre of the sacrilege incidents and protests, which had led to police firing in 2015 when SAD-BJP government was in power. SAD candidate Gulzar Singh Ranike faces a grave challenge of handling public anger. Both Ranike his Congress rival Mohammad Sadique are looked upon as ‘outsiders’ here.
In Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann, the AAP candidate, faces a tough fight as the constituency is not known to repeat its sitting MPs.
At Fategarh Sahib, two former IAS officers who were once close buddies, are fighting another tough battle.
Former Punjab cadre IAS officer Darbara Singh Guru, the SAD-BJP nominee, is pitted against former civil servant of MP cadre Dr Amar Singh of the Congress.