Bathinda Ground Report: Harsimrat Badal About to Lose Home Turf?
Let down by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a farmer’s widow has put up a humble but inspiring fight against her in her turf.
Video editor: Purnendu Pritam
Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
“We appeal to all Sikhs, our Hindu brothers and Muslims to not vote for the Badals or the BJP,” says local protester, Bikkar Singh Holkar.
With two terms of incumbency, backlash over the 2015 sacrilege and a poor farmer's widow putting all her resources into a campaign to fight the Badals, is Harsimrat on the verge of losing her bastion? Contesting against her is the Congress’ Raja Warring, AAP’s Baljinder Kaur and Punjab Demmocratic Alliance’s Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
If Harsimrat Kaur Badal losses this election, it would come as a big blow to the Badal dynasty and its bastion, one that’s glorified by the family’s palatial bungalow on the Badal main road — where The Quint traveled to ahead of the last phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Punjab votes for its 13 Lok Sabha seats on 19 May and one of the hottest contests is at the Bathinda seat. In 2014 and 2009 this seat was won by Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
‘Will Not Let Badals Win’
“All the candidates of the Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) contesting, including the son Parkash Singh Badal and daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal, will lose. We will remove them from power, just the way they desecrated our Guru Granth Sahib,” Parallel Akal Takht jathedar Dhian Singh Mand told The Quint right outside Badal’s house.
About 300 people gathered here to express their anger at the Badals. Around 500-600 cars traveled about 60 kilometers from Bargavi village, where the desecration of the holy Sikh text happened first, to Badal’s home.
These people have been going door to door asking locals to not vote for the Badals, who they hold responsible for the desecration, the police inaction and the inability to nab the accused. Paramjit Singh Khalsa present at this rally asks, “The Badals were in the government then. They did not conduct the investigation properly. In police retaliation, two boys were killed. Then they said unknown policemen fired at the crowd, now you tell me how can the police be unknown?”
Adding that in their hours long agitation outside the Badal residence, not once had a message come from their home. protester Amrish Singh says, “It was the Badal government in power. It was after their order itself that the police fired. Two of our people died then.”
‘People Scared of Badals’
Stepping away from the loud protests outside the Badal residence, The Quint went into the Badal village and found a totally different image – all was calm and quiet. Several people here knew of the ongoing protests outside the Badal residence, but they did not join them.
Refusing to come on camera, locals of this village agreed to only let their audio be recorded.
“No one from the Badal village will speak up. Of course we are scared, we live in the same village as them.” said *Shaad.
When asked if people will vote for Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Shaad said, “They won’t vote for her. A true Sikh will definitely not, those who have been bribed and bought will.”
Other locals, when asked if Harsimrat had worked for the people, said she had done a “lot of work”. When asked what exactly had she done, one said, “For us, it is enough that she is from our village.”
Bringing up the desecration, a local said, “See, our holy book was insulted, torn apart, but we don’t know if Captain sahab (CM Amarinder Singh) or Badal did it. Either way, if the Captain has done it, he should get punished, and if it is the Badals then they should get punished.
Dejected by Harsimrat Kaur, Farmer’s Widow Puts up a Fight
Around 80 kilometers away in Ralla village in Mansa, The Quint met Veerpal Kaur, a farmer’s widow who is contesting against Harsimrat Kaur as an independent candidate.
“All farmer families in distress met and there was a discussion about how we will deal with our issues, which is when I got this idea that I should contest the elections,” shared Veerpal.
A refreshing departure from party candidates who are never directly reachable, Veerpal picked up her phone and walked outside the village to receive The Quint’s team with a smile.
“I have nothing to say to Harsimrat Kaur Badal. She has not done anything for me. That is why I am contesting the elections.” she daid. Her father, father-in-law and husband were farmers who, ridden with debt, killed themselves.
When asked how she is funding her election campaign, Veerpal said she went to Bathinda city and village and asked people for money, adding that people donated Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 20 at times. Pooling in all that money, she has managed to pay the Rs 25,000 required to file election nominations.
“The day I filed my nomination against these powerful candidates, I won,” she said with a smile.
Veerpal covers about 20 villages each day, in a rented an auto, with a mike and speaker to campaign for the elections. She even shows us her election poster.
The discourse in the elections of the Bathinda seat are centered around the 2015 sacrilege and the Congress not letting any opportunity to bring up the issue pass. This could be worrisome for the Akalis, as losing on their home turf could be a huge setback for a party that lost the state polls in 2017 as well.
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