Contests everywhere have become constituency-centric

With strong anti-incumbency sweeping the State, the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance seems to be banking on the impact of the “Modi wave” to sway the voters in their favour, as their own “development” plank hardly finds any takers.

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi had addressed rallies in as many as five of the 13 constituencies in Punjab, where polling in a single phase is scheduled for April 30. The ruling alliance’s candidate from Amritsar and BJP’s top strategist, Arun Jaitley, during a talk with this correspondent said that as was the case in Chandigarh, he expected things to become favourable after Mr Modi’s visit and this would be repeated in various constituencies in Punjab. However, a visit across all regions of the State revealed that the contests everywhere had become constituency-centric.

While talking to some reporters during her campaign for the Anandpur Sahib constituency, Congress candidate Ambika Soni took a light hearted jibe that while travelling along the broken link roads in the villages her vehicle was damaged extensively. This, she said, exposed the hollowness of the State government’s claims of “unprecedented development.”

Sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of the Chief Minister, had to face resentment in about one and a half dozen villages of her Bathinda constituency. Elsewhere, people were upset that their villages had been upgraded to “nagar panchayats” (notified area councils). According Ghanshyam of Amargarh, the improvement meant that poor went out of the ambit of the NREGS, property tax was imposed, tariff on electricity raised and the students lost the five per cent weightage they would receive on account of their rural area domicile. “We stand to lose for something which we never demanded.” At the same time, he says facilities associated with urban areas have not reached them. Other problems include people being asked to vacate common land, poor drainage systems that cry for repair and improvement, streets dotted with cesspools and village ponds that have become breeding grounds for diseases. Many are livid about illegal mining of sand and gravel, where monopoly has been attributed to top leaders of the ruling alliance. There are numerous instances where people were slapped penalties of up to Rs. 5,000 if they dug out and used sand from their own fields. “With prices of sand and gravel hitting the roof, constructing or repair to a house is beyond our reach. I cannot get a bag of sand to insulate my tandoor,” says an owner of a dhaba on the Fazilka-Ferozpur road.

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