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Punjab's battle royale: 'Maharani' campaigns on war footing

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 12:51 IST

Punjab's battle royale: 'Maharani' campaigns on war footing

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The leading ladies of Patiala royal family are sparing no efforts these days in gleaning voters' support for their men, who are in the fray from this crucial parliamentary segment in Punjab. The 117-constituency strong state assembly goes to polls on January 30. But it is here in Patiala that the erstwhile royal and Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh and his son Raninder are contesting from Patiala rural and Samana assembly segments respectively.

Holding fort for the father-son duo are women of the clan with the captains wife and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur leading from the front. The maharani, as she is called despite Congress President Sonia Gandhi's recent instructions to party workers to shed feudal titles, has for company daughter Jai Inder, who has shifted from Delhi to Patiala until the day of polling; and daughter-in-law Rishma, campaigning hard for husband Raninder in Samana.

On talks of her being projected as the chief ministerial candidate, Preenet Kaur said, "The talk is media talk. I have never spoken to anyone. I am very happy where I have been put and I am very happy in the job that I am doing. I think this is all speculative".

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Image: Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur


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Punjab's battle royale: 'Maharani' campaigns on war footing

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"I am not in the race and it's normally the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president," she said. Her son Raninder is at the centre of a family rebellion after his uncle and captain's younger brother Malwinder Singh broke ranks and joined the Akalis following denial of ticket to him from Samana. Though not in the fray, Malwinder poses a formidable challenge to his nephew. But, he is yet to start his campaign against his nephew in Samana.

That explains why all the royals are flocking to Patiala's Moti Bagh Palace, the captain's majestic family home, which has turned into a camping site even for members of the extended family. They have abandoned their chores to contribute to Raninder's canvassing. Capt Singh's sister Rupinder Kaur and uncle "Raja" Randhir Singh are on Preneet Kaur's list of family campaigners for Raninder and will soon visit Samana.

Sources say Preneet Kaur has consciously lined up all the royals to isolate Malwinder and prove that the family is still with her son.

Raninder had lost the last Bathinda parliamentary segment polls to Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal's wife Harsimrat Badal. For him as also his father, it's naturally a high stake election. No surprise then that the royals have turned foot soldiers to guard his honour.


Image: Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh

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The captain's son-in-law Gurpal Singh is in Patiala and campaigning. He will soon have with him his sister Ishi, who happens to be Preneet's Kaur's sister-in-law.

In every way, Patiala is thus witnessing battle royale as the family stands united against Malwinder, the rebel, and behind Raninder, the scion.
The anxiety to counter the rebel effect and ensure victory for Raninder to initiate is political career is, however, palpable in the canvassing Preneet Kaur is supervising in Patiala. She has put daughter Jai Inder in charge of the captain's segment and Rishma accountable for Samana.

Engaging with locals apart from offering prayers at temples and gurdwaras, Jai Inder says she is happy being around for her parents. "We have divided the city into 12 zones. I am happy managing things for my mother and father." While she addresses corner meetings in each zone, other family members reach out to the electorate door-to-door.

For victory, the Patiala royals are banking on people's love for the clan. "The love of people for the family is amazing. They keep waiting till late at night even during the winter chill just to meet us. This is something that overwhelms us," Jai Inder told PTI.


Image: Raninder Singh is contesting Samana assembly segment

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Earlier addressing "nukkar" meetings, she said, "My father has ensured all-round development of Patiala. Give him another chance and he will improve infrastructure further."

Amarinder Singh was the Punjab chief minister from 2002 to 2007. In Samana, Preneet Kaur is concentrating her energies in village-to-village canvassing for her son, with daughter-in-law Rishma working hard in the urban areas of Samana town.

"I'm asking people to support Raninder going by the performance of his mother and father," says Rishma, admitting that the poll run-up is "giving anxious moments to her husband as it is important for him to win and start his political career".

The sauve mother of two does not mind spending whole days campaigning. "Campaigning is not new to me. We have always come out on the streets. But this time it is very heartening to see people welcome me as their own daughter-in-law. I'm quite happy to get this response. But, I'm missing my daughters," she says.

Addressing corner meetings in Samana, she calls upon the residents to, "Give him (Raninder) 20 days and he will give you 20 years". For her as for the erstwhile royals, it is "yuvraj's izzat" (scion's honour) at stake; hence the investments.



Image: Amarinder Singh's younger brother Malwinder Singh


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