Chandigarh: The Ghaggar, the river that served as one of the lifelines for people in the Patiala constituency, now delivers death to them in liberal doses. Heavy pollution has made it a major source of cancer for villagers along its banks. The number of patients has been on the rise over the years, yet the villagers have no other option but to use water from the river for irrigation and domestic purposes. The Rs 109 crore sewerage line project for outer colonies of Patiala remains half-done and the political will to mitigate the problem appears weak.
Patiala, an education and agro-machinery industry hub, may have been the stronghold of the Congress for the last 15 years, with Preneet Kaur, wife of Patiala royal and former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, having won the contest for three successive terms from here, but the party has to try extra hard to convince people on its seriousness on problems such as Ghaggar to get their votes this time. That Kaur is against an anti-incumbency wave does not help her cause at all.
What’s even more problematic for her is the fact that Capt Amarinder Singh is no more around this time to help his wife, busy as he is in his own fierce contest against Arun Jaitley in Amritsar. Preneet, 69, is facing a three-cornered contest. Her main opponent in this election is Deepinder Dhillon of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), while AAP’s candidate in the poll is Dharamvira Gandhi, 63.
Patiala parliamentary constituency is marred by poor civic amenities in the urban areas. Many of the internal roads are in a dilapidated condition and Preneet is finding it hard to explain to the people why this is so despite her being the MP from the region for all of 15 years. People are also questioning why the city’s civic facilities have failed to improve when they have been paying heavy taxes all these years. In the rural areas, lakhs of people living alongside Ghaggar river have been facing problems every year because of floods. Political leaders have not paid much attention to the people’s woes and as a result Patiala’s 'river of sorrow' is yet to be tamed. Residents say during every election politicians promise an end to their woes arising out of the river, but noting concrete comes around once the elections are over.
Karamvir Singh of Meham, Haryana who visits Patiala quite often, says Haryana had very cleverly constructed a 4-km-long toe wall at the point where the Ghaggar river flows into the state. “The toe wall ensured that most of the flood water was diverted to Punjab. Punjab objected to the construction of the toe wall by Haryana, but failed to take any action itself, allowing its people to suffer as a result. Since the matter is now sub-judice in the Supreme Court, Punjab cannot undertake any fresh construction on the site," says Meham.
Preneet kaur is facing stiff competition from her one time aide and former Congressman Deepinder Singh Dhillon, now in SAD. Deepinder had turned a rebel and quit the Congress in 2012 when he was not given the party ticket to contest the assembly poll. But the fight has not remained two-sided. AAP’s candidate Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, a noted cardiologist has made the contest more intriguing. Gandhi is a well-known social activist of the region. He has made a name for himself by providing inexpensive treatment to the people in the rural areas of Patiala. He is banking on the clean image of his party, even as he points out the failures of the Congress and SAD to develop the region, despite having got so many chances in the past.
Preneet has accused the SAD-BJP government of diverting funds allocated to the Patiala constituency to Bathinda district from where the Badal family hails and in the process allowing her region to remain backward. "I brought in central funds many times and got approved a Rs 148 crore project to tame river Ghaggar. Unfortunately the Akalis have been stalling my project," says Preeet Kaur.
On the other hand SAD nominee Deepinder Dhillon has blamed Preneet for her inability to bring any major industrial project to Patiala despite having represented the constituency for the last 15 years. "We have been working hard to siden and strengthen the Ghaggar’s banks to check annual floods that inundate the region causing loss of lives and farmers’ fields," says Deepinder Dhillon.
Unimpressed by the efforts of both the Congress and the SAD candidates, AAP nominee Dharamvira Gandhi says both the laders are hoodwinking the people. "Preneet has done nothing for the region despite winning three times in a row. Contribution of SAD too in the development works of the constituency is negligible," he says.
Interestingly, both SAD and Congress are hoping that AAP will cut into the vote bank of the other. Patiala constituency has a total of 15.7 lakh voters, the majority of them (52 per cent) being Jat Sikhs. The Scheduled Caste (SC) comprises 24 percent of the total population, while the Hindus and the Kamboj communities comprise 15 percent and 6 percent of the population respectively.
Facing the anti-incumbency factor, Preneet has found the going a bit tough, but is hoping to cash in the name of royalty. In the last general election held in 2009, she had polled a massive 4.77 lakh votes compared to 3.76 lakh votes of SAD nominee Prem Singh Chandumajra, while the BSP candidate Deepak Joshi had polled a mere 57,839 votes. Chandunajra now is contesting from the neighbouring Anandpur Sahib constituency. Altogether there are 20 candidates in the fray.
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2014 19:39:24 IST