Sitting SAD MP from Bhatinda, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, is as fiery as they come, hard as nails when it comes to politics and not chary to take a decision on her own and stick to it. And pitted against her is Punjab People's Party founder Manpreet Singh Brar, an equally firebrand leader.
On Tuesday, Harsimrat filed her nomination papers and the story goes that when her chief minister father-in-law, Prakash Singh Badal, along with her husband, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, arrived to witness the event, the CM was surprised to see her brother Bikarm Singh Majithia, a minister in his cabinet, already there.
"What are you doing here?" senior Badal asked Majithia. He replied: "Sister told me to be here, it was an order." To which, the CM said, "I thought, I am the boss."
Left with that reminder, Majithia said, rather sheepishly, that he didn't know what to do. "If I don't do what she says, I'm in trouble. If I am on your wrong side, I'm in trouble."
Moral of the story: Harsimrat Kaur's writ runs in SAD, and those who refuse her diktat might end up mighty sad, too. Anyway, as it happened, Majithia was there to be her "covering candidate", a fact
which Prakash Singh Badal came to know from Majithia and not from Harsimrat Kaur.
The dominating daughter-in-law is pitted against Badal's nephew Manpreet Singh Badal, who, on the face of it, is not much different in temperament from Harsimrat Kaur. Independent to the point of turning rebel, the man who broke away from SAD to form the Punjab People's Party (PPP) was given a drubbing in the assembly election. Smarting since then, he's out to take revenge, and to exact retribution, he's joined hands with the Congress.
Manpreet is fighting these elections on the Congress' symbol, and the Congress, which wants to humiliate the Akalis as much as, if not more than Manpreet Singh Badal, has given PPP an irregular-shaped hall with two toilets attached in its district headquarters building to function from. A hoarding of Manpreet flanked by Rahul Gandhi and an unremarkable looking local Congress bigwig is testimony to his presence in the Congress fold.
In her affidavit, Harsimrat Kaur Badal stated that neither she nor her husband Sukhbir Singh Badal own any cars, only a pair of Massey Ferguson tractors in the name of Sukhbir. Manpreet, however, does own a vehicle, an SUV, which he uses in electioneering.
A man of action, with ideals that are close to what the AAP proclaims, Manpreet has been touring the constituency non-stop, driving the SUV himself. It's said that much before AAP and Kejriwal gave up red beacons, Manpreet, as Punjab finance minister, had left his by the roadside and never looked back.
Village to village is Manpreet's trip every day. He isn't bothered by the bumpy terrain he has to cover. In fact, those very bumpy roads become a talking point for him when he questions the development plank of Harsimrat Kaur. Manpreet tells the villagers why he left a comfortable life and a minister's post to form his own outfit. He tells them to see beyond the rhetoric of SAD and justifies why he has joined hands with the Congress. "It's the only way to uproot this corrupt regime," he says.
To this, Harsimrat Kaur says Manpreet Singh Badal is "damaged goods" who has joined hands with a party's that's almost "damaged goods". The SAD office in Bhatinda, however, belies her words. A lone "Sardar" stationed there says she will be "here" only on voting day.
The fight is intense and it won't be a cakewalk for Harsimrat. A prestigious seat for SAD as well as the Congress, a Harsimrat Kaur defeat in Bhatinda will mean the beginning of the end of the Badals. And if it's a Badal who turns the knife in, what better way to end a SAD story for the Congress.