Manmohan Singh was conspicuous by his absence in the campaign scene

As campaigning ended on Monday evening for all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, where polling is scheduled for April 30, the former Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, asked the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi why he did not visit the “Durbar Sahib” (Golden Temple) during his many recent visits to the State.

Through his failure to pay obeisance at the shrine, which was a symbol of universal brotherhood, Mr. Modi had shown that the concept of a secular India was alien to him. His refusal in the past to accept a cap from a minority community only betrayed his communal and sectarian beliefs. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi participated in a rally in Bathinda and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal at one in Anandpur Sahib. Most other leaders, including Captain Amarinder Singh and his challenger in the BJP, Arun Jaitley, organised road shows in their respective constituencies.

According to official records, 253 candidates are in the fray for the 13 seats. Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur is in the fray at Patiala and the former Union Minister, Ambika Soni, in Anandpur Sahib. President of the State Congress Partap Singh Bajwa is seeking a second tenure from Gurdaspur, where he faces film star Vinod Khanna of the BJP. Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Sunil Jhakar is contesting the Ferozepur seat.

An interesting contest is in the offing at Bathinda, where Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s MP daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur is in the fray. She faces Mr. Badal’s estranged nephew Manpreet Singh, who is contesting as a nominee of the Congress with which his People’s Party of Punjab has forged an alliance. Senior Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is locked in a triangular contest at Sangrur. Noted Supreme Court lawyer H.S. Phoolka is the AAP candidate in Ludhiana, which is set to witness a multi-cornered contest. Top leaders such as Mr. Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and BSP supremo Mayawati lent their weight to a high decibel campaign, at which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was conspicuous by his absence.

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