The contest in the Ambala City constituency has become more of a ‘proxy war’ between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress nominee Venod Sharma who is seeking re-election.
Interestingly, senior Akali Dal leaders of Punjab and functionaries of the Punjab Government are camping here. Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee chief Avtar Singh Makkar is staying in the Kingfisher Tourism Resort for the last couple of days. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal even addressed a couple of rallies here in support of SAD nominee Charanjit Kaur, wife of former Indian National Lok Dal(INLD) MLA Jasbir Singh Malour.
It may be recalled that the SAD is contesting from Ambala City and Kalanwali as per a seat-sharing arrangement with the INLD.
However, a quick tour of the constituency indicated that the 1.85 lakh voters are not going to be easily influenced by the “brazen show of strength” by the Akali Dal. Interestingly, the BJP, which shares power with the SAD in Punjab, has fielded Sanjay Sharma, a virtual newcomer.
A wide cross-section of voters belonging to all age groups told The Hindu that they wanted “development” of the City, which had remained virtually neglected over the decades.
“We are not interested in political slogans being raised by many parties in the fray. They are just serving old wine in new bottles,” remarked a school teacher. She added that it was for the first time in the history of Ambala that Mr.Venod Sharma, who had served as Power Minister in the Hooda Government, had initiated the process of development in the area by ensuring that no financial shortages or procedural delays came in the way.
A young executive added that the Congress Government had made efforts to solve the perennial problems faced by the residents mainly relating to sewerage and pitiable condition of roads.
Development of the constituency seems to be the “keyword” in the mind of many residents. Also, they contrast the lack of development in the neighbouring Ambala Cantonment constituency which was “neglected” by almost all political elected representatives including the sitting Congress MLA D.K.Bansal, who is now in the fray from Panchkula.
Interestingly, a large number of residents of Ambala Cantonment, including some former well-wishers of the BJP, have decided to extend support to the Congress nominee Nirmal Singh, a senior leader and sitting MLA from the Naggal constituency which has now been abolished.
They said that former two-time MLA Anil Vij, who recently rejoined the BJP after getting the party ticket, was not only facing “opposition”n from within the BJP but also the general public as some of his “decisions” when he was MLA had further aggravated the drainage and other civic problems which have not been resolved at all.
Interestingly, the voters as well as political players have shed their emphasis on caste factors. Rather, the overall emphasis is on who can ensure development, a political observer says.