Election fever catches up in Malerkotla

This otherwise sleepy Muslim majority town of Punjab, is abuzz with election activity these days.

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

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

"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

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.


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