Election fever catches up in Malerkotla
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Last Updated: Monday, January 23, 2012, 16:43
Malerkotla: This otherwise sleepy Muslim majority town of Punjab, is abuzz with election activity these days.

And the contest here is not so much between the two women candidates Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal have fielded for the January 30 polls as it is between their husbands, both IPS officers, one of them serving.

Officially the seat is witnessing a direct contest between the two-time Congress MLA from Malerkotla Razia Sultana and a greenhorn Farzana Alam but the real fight is between their respective partners, Punjab ADGP (IVC and Human Rights) Mohammad Mustafa and his arch rival and former DGP Prisons of the state Izhar Alam.

Such is the level of the husbands' involvement in their wives' "affairs" that they are canvassing and some even addressing public rallies themselves, acting as proxy candidates of the two main political parties and leaving hardly anything to their wives.

Mustafa has gone to the extent of risking his police career of 26 years for wife Razia who is running from this seat for the third time on the Congress ticket.

Despite being a serving officer, he had been canvassing for her after seeking medical leave from work, forcing the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal to complain against him and cancel his leave.

But the Election Commission recently imposed restrictions on his movement and placed him under surveillance in his own house in Amargarh, on the outskirts of Malerkotla.

Now a team of EC officials remains permanently stationed outside Mustafa's house.

The action followed a compliant by the ruling Akali Dal-BJP dispensation which has now cancelled the cop's leave ordering him to return to work.

But Mohd Musfata is clearly not interested and is staying put, strategising even from inside the house.

The voters say, "He is learnt to have told his friends in as many words that he will not move from Malerkotla until the elections were over.

The state government has meanwhile got him examined from a medical board and a report is awaited.

But the retired cop, Izhar Alam, is running a high pitch campaign for his wife Farzana Alam.

An outsider to this town, where over half of the 1.50 lakh strong electorate is Muslim, he settled here only in January 2010 after retirement and has since become politically active.

With the Akalis backing aimed at substitute Razia Sultana, the husband-wife duo of Alams even set up two schools in the area, a 100 bed hospital and a girls' college, through the Wakf Board of which the former DGP is the chairman for the last three years.

But the two-time MLA Razia Sultana is playing the "outsider" card against Alams.

In her frequent corner meetings and public addresses, she is seeking a third term promising the voters a medical college for the segment.

"State Congress Chief Capt Amarinder Singh has promised us a medical college. And we must remember the Akalis broke the tradition of the Chief Minister offering Rs five lakh on every Eid in this town," she says.

Razia, a local girl married in Uttar Pradesh, said that she was re-elected by the people going by her previous performance as MLA and claims will elect her again for her honesty.

"I initiated a lot of development, but ever since the Akalis came to power not a penny was infused and all development works have come to a halt, she said, accusing Alam instead of promoting "goons".

This is forcefully countered by her political rival's husband, who accuses Razia Sultana and her husband Mustafa of "converting the town into a safe haven for drug and land mafia".

On the outsider tag, Farzana said, "People of the town have now accepted us as part of them. In fact, it is their election now, not mine.

"When we came here we saw unbelievable things like complete abuse of political and police authority. People are terrorised. The area is under the grip of drug and land mafia.

Hindus and Muslims are divided. We will bring back communal harmony, law and order and development," the Alams tell voters, who are enthused by the aggressive battle between two Muslim women.

The other interesting election issue Alam is raising relates to the Punjab Wakf Board which he and Razia Sultana both chaired in the past. "I took the profits of the Wakf Board from Rs 3.64 crore to Rs 19.31 crore. What did she do?"

he asks, even as his wife, the officially Akali candidate sits at a distance, listening patiently, and nodding in agreement. The Malerkotla seat has 10 candidates in the fray, including three women.

Besides, the two main women candidates there is another Razia Sultana contesting as an independent here, besides the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Zamil-ur-Rehman, who unsuccessfully contested the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in 2009.

While Razia won the seat in 2007 by a margin of 14,200 votes, after polling as much as 72,184 votes while the SAD candidate Abdul Gaffar polled 5,7984 votes.


First Published: Monday, January 23, 2012, 14:01

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