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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Caste math counts most here


Caste math counts most here

Ruchika M Khanna  and Anirudh Gupta

Tribune News Service

Ferozepur, May 17

On the last day of campaigning, inclement weather proved a dampner in this constituency where SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal is locked in an fight with two-time former Akali MP and now Congress candidate Sher Singh Ghubaya.

The constituency has a huge population of Rai Sikhs, who traditionally vote en bloc. Ghubaya, a Rai Sikh, is banking on his community to emerge victorious while the SAD feels it has managed to divide the Rai Sikhs, thus making Ghubaya vulnerable. For the past couple of years, Sukhbir has been promoting other Rai Sikh leaders to take on Ghubaya, which has helped him divide this vote bank.

Most poll rallies scheduled for today could not take off in time because of the bad weather. Sukhbir held a rally in Ferozepur (Rural) where he promised unprecedented development in the region, if voted. Saare pindaan diya galian cement dian banvan diyange, katche ghar pakke kar davange ( All village roads will be cemented and thatched hutments turned into concrete), he announced amid loud jaikaras. Youth Akali Dal workers, including his key campaigners Asishpreet Singh Saiyanwala and Parminder Brar, have left no stone unturned to project him as aan wala mukhmantri, who will turn the area into “mini Chandigarh”.

Ghubaya claims he is all set to score a “hat-trick” and break the “jinx” for Congress, which last won this  seat in 1985. Till 2009, Gubhaya represented Jalalabad, the seat he vacated for Sukhbir to facilitate his maiden entry into Vidhan Sabha. Later the two fell apart and Ghubaya joined the Congress. Bitterness has marked their campaigning with Sukhbir calling Ghubaya a “traitor and opportunist” and Ghubaya calling his one-time benefactor “arrogant.”

The SAD has been hitting out at Ghubaya for doing little for the people in the last two terms, except arranging for “water tanks”, and for promoting his family. While Sukhbir is hoping to capitalise on the growing anger within the Rai Sikhs, Ghubaya is likely to get the support of Taksali Sikhs and staunch Congress men to make it even. 

Local Congress leaders have thrown their weight behind Ghubaya but a section of party workers are annoyed because of police cases filed against them during Ghubaya’s term as Akali MLA and MP. Congress Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi claims to have placated Congress workers to a large extent, “who have agreed to support Ghubaya”.

Five-time Congress MLA and former AICCC member Balmukand Sharma has declared his support for Sukhbir. So has Narinder Singh Sandha, who had contested on AAP ticket. It will be the caste arithmetic which will hold the key in this segment. For Sukhbir, the political stakes are too high. He cannot afford to lose. For Ghubaya, it is a golden opportunity to emerge as a giant slayer.

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