Last Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 12:33
Sangrur: This traditional Lok Sabha seat, which has always witnessed a direct contest between the Congress and the Akalis, may throw up a surprise this Lok Sabha poll as AAP candidate Bhagwant Mann is being viewed as the dark horse in the battle of the ballot.
Sitting Congress MP Vijay Inder Singh Singla, known for his close proximity to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and SAD Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a close associate of SAD leader Parkash Singh Badal, is facing a stiff challenge from comedian-turned-politician Mann.
In the 2009 general polls, Singla had defeated Dhindsa by a margin of 40,872 votes.
The key issues concerning the people include corruption, unemployment, poverty, price rise, drug mafia and skewed development.
Mann, who is also facing a namesake as independent, had recently left the Manpreet Singh Badal-led Peoples Party of Punjab on whose ticket he had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Assembly polls from Lehragagga Assembly segment.
"This is a fight between the common man and politicians," Mann says. "Due to the struggle between the Congress and SAD, the people of Sangrur have always remained at the receiving end," he said.
Mann, known for his satires against the system, claims that both the SAD and Congress have ditched the people, particularly youth with their false promises.
Hitting out at Dhindsa, fighting a battle to prove a point in the Akali rank and file, Mann says, "Such leaders after defeat are nominated to Rajya Sabha."
Dhindsa, after his drubbing in the last hustings, was nominated to RS by the SAD.
"People like Dhindsa are not bothered about issues concerning the common man," he charged.
However, 77-year-old Dhindsa who had won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in 2004 before losing to Singla in the next elections is busy defending the Badals as well as the Akali-BJP government against Congress charges on various issues, including drug menace and employment.
42-year-old Singla had enabled the Congress to regain the Sangrur seat after the party lost it four times in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
Singla, a choice of Rahul in 2009, not only proved his detractors wrong by winning the elections, but also silenced his critics by bringing some key projects to this backward area of Malwa region.
From railway connectivity, roads, a sports stadium and a fashion technology institute to Rs 450 crore satellite centre of PGIMER, Singla claims several achievements to his credit.
However, despite his performance, he faces a Herculean task as his rise has not gone well with some Congressmen of the region. His differences with Congress MLA Arvind Khanna and Kewal Dhillon are an open secret, which Singla refutes saying the party is "united."
"My performance as an MP has been best in Punjab. Sangrur got many projects in the past five years," Singla boasts.
However, Dhindsa says that "He talks about projects, but all are on paper nothing has taken shape...He has failed badly as an MP...People want real development, which I provided when I was an MP".
Dhindsa is banking on the works by Badal government and what he calls the "Modi wave" in the country.
Since 1977, Sangrur Lok Sabha seat has been represented five times by SAD candidates, including Surjit Singh Barnala, thrice by Congress and twice by SAD (Mann). Barnala had set up SAD (Longowal) few years back.
While Singla's strength is development works carried out during his tenure, Dhindsa is easily accessible to people and Mann is considered to be man of masses with the power to attract people through his oratory and mimicry.
What bogs Mann is the impression among people that he quit PPP for "political gains”.
First Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 12:33