Harsimrat Kaur Badal fights against odds to defend Bathinda fortress

It’s a high-stakes multi-cornered contest this time as the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, both INDIA bloc partners, are fighting separately in Punjab.
Illustrati on: Mandar Pardikar
Harsimrat Kaur Badal (L) and Gurmeet Singh Khuddian

CHANDIGARH: As 57-year-old Harsimrat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch late Parkash Singh Badal, seeks her fourth consecutive win from Punjab’s Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, the odds appear to be stacked against her.

It’s a high-stakes multi-cornered contest this time as the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, both INDIA bloc partners, are fighting separately in Punjab. It is also the first Lok Sabha election after SAD broke away from the NDA fold in 2020. Among Harsimrat’s opponents is the formidable Gurmeet Singh Khuddian of the AAP.

The 61-year-old politician is the agriculture minister in the Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab. He had defeated the five-time CM and 11- time MLA late Parkash Badal from his bastion Lambi in the 2022 Assembly election, which earned him the moniker ‘giant slayer’. Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu of the Congress, Parampal Kaur Sidhu of the BJP Bharatiya Janata Party, and Lakhvir Singh allias Lakha Sidhana, 45, of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) are the Harsimrat’s other opponents.

However, AAP wields the biggest threat as it represents all the nine Assembly seats under the Bathinda LS constituency, which has 16.48 lakh voters. With rivals trying to breach SA D’s Bathinda fortress, can Harsimrat hold it? SAD has been out of power in Punjab for the past seven years and the decision to leave the NDA has further dented its clout.

So, keeping the Bathinda stronghold is crucial for its survival. Harsimrat’s husband and SA D chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, the party’s Ferozepur MP, is sitting out this time but is at the forefront of campaigning. This election, the first since the death of his father, also will be a test of his leadership acumen.

In her speeches, Harsimrat highlights the development works done by her party while in power. The problem is, the BJP candidate too claims credit for all big projects, saying they happened because of the saffron party-led government at the Centre. But Harsimrat’s biggest attack is against the AA P and the Congress, saying they have not laid “even a brick of development”, and urges people to vote for actual performance not false promises.

Khuddian, on the other hand, seeks votes on the Mann government’s good works. He highlights the government’s free electricity scheme and the setting up of over 800 ‘aam aadmi’ clinics across the state. As for the BJP’s Parampal Kaur Sidhu, she claims the other parties have betrayed the people. “Now people have expectations only from the BJP,” she says.

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