Until now, Mohali’s claim to fame lay in being the backdrop to the world class stadium of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) and being the satellite town of the most planned city Chandigarh. However, in the run up to the Assembly elections, the keenly contested triangular electoral battle has made S.A.S. Nagar (named after the eldest son of Guru Gobind Singh) — better known as Mohali — one of the keenly-watched constituencies in the state.
After the recent delimitation, Mohali, with nearly 1.64 lakh votes, was carved out as a separate constituency by excluding a large area of Kharar seat, which was remodelled by merging considerable areas of Morinda that ceases to exist. It has an even spread that includes a major urban area of Mohali city and 78 villages.
Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu, who represented Kharar in the Assembly, faces challenge from former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who merged his Lok Bhalai Party with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. Former Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Bir Devinder Singh, who represented Kharar in 2002-07 and received the best Parliamentarian Award, has been fielded by People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), which was floated by former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Mr Sidhu’s campaign is centred on his achievements in the last five years that include allocation of Rs 3.5 crore from the MPLADS for various projects, distribution of uniforms, shoes and jerseys to all primary school students in the constituency and mass marriage of 101 girls from poor families. While he reminds the people of being successful in getting the legislature’s intervention to resolve the controversy around the conveyance deed and settling pensioners’ arrears, Mr Sidhu is seeking the completion of pending projects like construction of the international airport, restoring “A” category status to Mohali for 24-hour power supply and reviving the industrialisation of the city.
Mr. Bir Devinder Singh, on the other hand, is exuding confidence that people are looking at the PPP to spring a “big political surprise” on the state. He is reminding the electorate of the days when he, as an MLA, ensured attendance in schools, got the district status to Mohali, ensured the setting up of Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) for planned development of the region and was a whistle blower even through his own party was in government. About his experiences in the Congress and a brief stint in the Akali Dal, Mr Singh said that in the absence of internal democracy, these parties had fallen prey to vested interests. He said that their corporate house-like functioning had also led to stifling of dedicated and committed workers.
If the number of shrines and fervour at the religious festivals are an indicator, Mohali gives an impression of being a Panthic seat, but the Akali Dal faces an uphill task here. Being a new city, most leaders have been engaged in a struggle for one-upmanship, leading to factional feuds. In the recently held SGPC polls, the official party candidate, J.P. Singh, lost to an Independent, Hardeep Singh.
Under such circumstances, Mr Ramoowalia, who is labelled an “outsider” despite a three and a half decade career in politic, would need to put in extra effort. He has attempted to impress people with the work he had done in providing relief to women deserted by their NRI grooms and procuring the release of youths who landed in jails in other countries after been duped by unscrupulous travel agents.