Lok Sabha Elections 2024: In a keen contest from Bathinda seat, ‘Badal bahu’ Harsimrat fights for fourth term


PTI, May 26, 2024, 11:33 AM IST

Chandigarh: Three-time MP and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal speaks about bringing AIIMS, a central university, and other projects as some of her achievements as she braces for a multi-cornered electoral bout to get elected from the Bathinda parliamentary constituency for the fourth time in a row.

She also invokes her late father-in-law and five-time Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, reminding voters that he used to remain among the public to address their issues.

The Bathinda parliamentary constituency, which goes to polls on June 1, is considered a stronghold of the Shiromani Akali Dal with its candidate Harsimrat, the wife of party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, winning this seat since 2009.

The 2024 Lok Sabha election is going to be a litmus test for Harsimrat, who seeks to retain the Bathinda seat as her political rivals are trying to breach SAD’s fortress.

This time the BJP, which used to be an ally of the SAD, has also fielded its candidate from the Bathinda parliamentary constituency.

Harsimrat is pitted against AAP’s candidate and state Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khuddian, BJP candidate and former IAS officer Parampal Kaur Sidhu, Congress party candidate Jeet Mohinder Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) nominee Lakha Sidhana.

Harsimrat, 57, contested the Lok Sabha polls for the first time in 2009 when she defeated former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh by a margin of over 1.20 lakh votes.

In 2014, she defeated her husband’s estranged cousin Manpreet Singh Badal by a margin of over 19,000 votes. In the 2019 polls, Harsimrat maintained her victory streak as she trounced Congress nominee Amrinder Singh Raja Warring by a margin of more than 21,000 votes.

During her recent poll campaign at Sangat Mandi in her constituency, Harsimrat spoke about development works undertaken by the erstwhile SAD regime and targeted the Congress and AAP for not laying even a ‘single brick’ of development.

She asked a gathering of people to vote on the basis of performance and not to get influenced by ‘false promises’ of the rival political parties.

On bringing projects to her constituency, Harsimrat said, “When you (people) made me MP for the first time, a big ‘karkhana’ (Bathinda refinery) came up. You gave me the chance for the second time, a central university (in Bathinda) came up. When you gave me a chance to serve you for the third time, Punjab’s biggest hospital AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) was brought here.”

She also spoke about introducing a Shatabdi train to Bathinda, setting up a domestic airport and a network of roads.

Attacking her rival parties, the MP said Punjab did not witness any development during the last seven years — five-year regime of the Congress and now the two year-long AAP’s dispensation.

“Be it ‘jharoo’ (AAP’s symbol) or ‘panja’ (Congress’s symbol), their only target is to get the chair by making false promises. ‘Jharoo’ and ‘panja’ collectively burdened the state with Rs 2 lakh crore of debt and not even a hospital or a school came up. With which face are they seeking votes now?” she asked.

On the other hand, BJP candidate Parampal Kaur Sidhu countered Harsimrat’s claims and said the projects such as AIIMS and central university came up because of the efforts of the BJP government at the Centre.

Sidhu, who is the daughter-in-law of SAD leader Sikandar Singh Maluka, also accused Harsimrat, who had served as the state food processing minister, of doing nothing for the farmers of Bathinda.

The Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency is famous for cultivation of grapes, guavas, and malta, she said, while pointing out that instead of caring for the farmers of her constituency, Harsimrat forced them to dig their own orchards in order to get good prices for their produce in the market.

She went to attack the current and past dispensations in the state, saying, “The AAP has badly failed on all fronts. For decades, Congress and Akali Dal have too betrayed the faith of people of Bathinda and Punjab. Now the state’s people have expectations only from the BJP.”

AAP candidate Gurmeet Singh Khuddian said he is going to people with the works done by the Bhagwant Mann government in the last two years. He said free electricity (up to 300 units) has been given to people and over 800 ‘aam aadmi’ clinics have been set up in the state.

Khuddian came into the limelight in the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls when he defeated 11-time MLA Parkash Singh Badal on his home turf Lambi seat by a margin of 11,396 votes.

Congress nominee Jeet Mohinder Sidhu, in one of his public meetings, slammed the AAP government, saying it has done nothing for the people in the past two years. He alleged that the ruling party took the state’s progress 20 years back.

The Bathinda seat, which has 16.48 lakh voters, has nine assembly constituencies — Lambi, Bhucho Mandi, Bathinda Urban, Bathinda Rural, Talwadni Sabo, Maur, Mansa, Sardulgarh and Budhlada.

Polling for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab will be held on June 1.

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