Lambi (Punjab), Jan 28: They share the common wall of their ancestral house, the family name and even the village name. But in the cut and thrust of politics, a common inheritance seems to matter little when it comes to electoral politics.
Punjab's three Badal brothers are locked in a triangular contest in Lambi which goes to polls on Monday.
Fighting from here is Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, also the grand patriarch of Shiromani Akali Dal and the Badal family which hails from Lambi in Badal village.
Challenging the CM are his brother Gurdas Badal and cousin Mahesh Inder Singh Badal. While the former is fighting to open the political account of his son Manpreet's newly-formed People's Party of Punjab, the latter is contesting on a Congress ticket, having fought as an independent in the last assembly elections.
The fight here is essentially in the family with Parkash Singh Badal running for the fifth time in a row. And though one would enter Lambi hoping mudslinging matches to be on, the brothers are refraining from running each other down in the public.
For the outgoing CM, it is his brother Gurdas who is posing the biggest challenge.
Asked how he felt about taking on his own brother whom he had served for years, Gurdas Badal told PTI, “I have always dreamt of seeing my brother in the CM's chair. But things have now slipped out of his hands. He is only a face. It is his son Sukhbir Badal, the Deputy CM, and his family who are running the show. Nothing is in my brother's control nor does he assert his authority.”
Gurdas Badal alleges middlemen pocketed a fair share of funds government allocated for development in the area.
“The CM gave money but the insiders squandered it completely,” he tells voters, adding “Punjab stands on one side and Lambi on the other as far as money spent for development goes.”
In the fight between the two real brothers, Mahesh Inder Singh Badal has positioned himself as an alternative in Lambi.
The youngest in the contesting brother trio, he told PTI, “I am contesting in the hope to win and to improve the social and economic indicators of this area. I live here. Easy availability and access are my biggest assets. I can help these people more than anyone else can.”
But Parkash Singh Badal seems confident of returning to the assembly for the sixth time from Lambi. He has already finished campaigning here, after having begun his canvassing early. He is now touring the rest of Punjab to garner votes for other Akali candidates.
The other two Badals are, however, camping in the area, wooing the electorate as the D-day approaches. As for Parkash Singh, his confidence stems from solid ground work.
Having pumped crores of rupees into Lambi during the last five years of his rule, the CM has been telling the voters to continue supporting the “developmental” Akali rule.
He had recently distributed sewing machines and sports kits to the poor and youth here besides offering huge financial grants for construction of kutccha houses that were destroyed in heavy rains.
The VIP Badal village, which houses Lambi, has a 25-km one-way road connecting it to Bathinda and a sewerage project is under construction. The road widening work was put on hold after the Election Commission imposed the model code of conduct.
“I have tried to do my bit for the area. Forgive me for any inadvertent omission. I will make do for my lapses once our government is re-elected”, says the CM.
He also tells the voters to “keep his honour intact” by electing him and cautions them against the “false promises of rival parties”, without naming his brothers.
On the other hand, Gurdas Badal, who parted ways with the Akali Dal riding the wave of rebellion by his son Manpreet, former Finance Minister, plays to the emotions of locals, promising to take care of them as part of his family.
“I have stood by you through sun and shade, through good and bad days. I brought in all the money for development of villages in Lambi. I will continue to do so but you must elect me this time and help PPP form the next government,” he impresses upon voters.
The chief minister had won the seat last time by 9,187 votes from his nearest rival, Mahesh Inder Singh of Congress. In 2002 however, Mahesh Inder had lost as an independent to senior Badal by over 23,000 votes.