Fielding of new faces by major political parties in the semi-rural constituency of Mansa has spiced up the contest in this cotton belt for the next month's Punjab assembly polls.
While the ruling Congress has fielded popular Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, better known as 'Sidhu Moosewala', the opposition Aam Aadmi Party's candidate is Vijay Singla and Shiromani Akali Dal has fielded Prem Arora in Mansa. Mansa, where people mainly grow cotton, paddy and vegetables, is known for electing legislators on many occasions in the past from opposition parties.
The region had also remained a hotbed of the farmers agitation against the central farm laws. Last month, the town was in news due to police canecharge on unemployed school teachers during a Congress rally, after which the government had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
In the 2017 elections, Nazar Singh Manshahia was elected from the constituency on an AAP ticket, but two years later, he switched over to the Congress. However, the ruling party denied him re-nomination from Mansa segment this time. Amid Covid-related curbs imposed by the Election Commission, contesting candidates are holding meetings in small groups or going door-to-door.
Addressing small gatherings here after inaugurating party office in Bhikhi, Moosewala, whose mother is a village varpanch, exuded confidence that the Congress was coming back to power and urged people to elect the party's candidate from here.
He said he will try to bring development projects here which will generate employment avenues for the youth. During his door-to-door campaigning, Singla, a doctor by profession, told people that winds of change were sweeping Punjab and that people have tested other traditional parties and they now want to give one chance to his party.
"The heart of every Punjabi is saying that this time, change has to be done, one chance has to be given to AAP," he said, while promising to bring industrial units to generate employment as he held a poll meeting in village Ralla. SAD's businessman-turned-politician Prem Arora, while campaigning in village Burj Dhilwan, told the gathering that he will serve the people and will always be with them in their thick and thin. He talked about unemployed youth here and promised to bring industries to Mansa.
Hitting out at the AAP, he said, "AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal talks of giving big guarantees, but he could not give guarantee for his own MLAs in Punjab, many of whom shifted loyalties". "They have no vision for Punjab," added the SAD candidate, as he also takes on the Congress over a host of issues.