Political jamboree on Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day
Khatkar Kalan, Punjab: With canopies stretched over 20 acres, facilities for drinking water and parking, and at least 10 community kitchens, this Punjab village hosted thousands of people Wednesday as political parties held separate rallies to mark the 80th martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh.
Thousands thronged the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh, as the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine and the opposition Congress held parallel rallies to mark the martyrdom day of one of the country's iconic freedom fighters.
The Akali Dal shamiana, spread over nearly 20 acres, donned the party's colours - saffron, blue and yellow. If not equally big, the venue of the Congress rally tried to match up the Akali Dal show.
Hundreds of fans and coolers were installed as people sat on the carpeted ground.
Cries of 'Bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal' rent the air every now and then.
Three stages were erected at the ruling party venue - one for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh, ministers, MPs and other dignitaries, another one for VIPs like legislators and other Akali Dal and BJP leaders, and the third for singers and performers.
Popular singer Satinder Sartaj regaled the audience for several hours before the leaders took to the stage.
LCD screens, nearly 4,000 buses and trucks to ferry people to this village from across the state, kiosks to prepare and serve 'pakoras', 'jalebis' and tea for the people were all part of the facilities specially put up here Wednesday.
While most speakers talked about the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh and his contribution to the country's freedom movement, most of the speeches were about political posturing by the leaders as the state warms up to assembly elections scheduled February-March next year.
"We have a lot to learn from the sacrifices made by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. I am proud that they were born in the holy land of Punjab," Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, dressed in a light-blue shirt, grey trousers and black turban, told the audience.
The rest of the speech of Sukhbir Badal as the addresses of other leaders dwelled on Punjab politics and what the Akali Dal had done for the state. Badal did not even spare former chief minister Amarinder Singh and the opposition Congress for "not doing anything" for Punjab.
At another nearby venue in this village, the opposition Congress held its own rally to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Bhagat Singh.
Amarinder Singh, who is also the state Congress president, and other senior leaders addressed the rally and recounted the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters.