Hot seat Dirba: Kabaddi player, teacher look to flatten heavyweight Cheema - Hindustan Times

Hot seat Dirba: Kabaddi player, teacher look to flatten heavyweight Cheema

Feb 14, 2022 12:26 AM IST

Aam Aadmi Party Dirba candidate Harpal Singh Cheema is facing stiff challenge from his Congress rivals ‘Master’ Ajaib Singh Ratolan, a retired teacher, and SAD’s Gulzar Singh, a kabbadi player, in Dirba assembly segment

SANGRUR: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Dirba candidate Harpal Singh Cheema won the 2017 state assembly election by a thin margin of 1,645 votes by defeating his rival Congress candidate ‘Master’ Ajaib Singh Ratolan, a retired teacher, but his political career rose rapidly in the past five years after he was appointed leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly.

AAP Dirba candidate Harpal Singh Cheema.
AAP Dirba candidate Harpal Singh Cheema.

When Cheema was dealing in political circles as a leader of the principal opposition party, Gulzar Singh, who got third position in previous polls by contesting on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket, served as a volunteer at the Delhi borders during the farmer agitation against three farm laws for almost a year.

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Once a kabaddi star, Gulzar, popularly known as Gulzari Moonak, is getting support from kisan morcha companions. Though the SAD faced opposition in villages during the struggle against farm laws, Gulzar was an exception.

The announcement of Sangrur MP and state AAP unit president Bhagwant Mann as the CM face has given a fillip to Cheema’s campaign as the MP’s native village Satoj comes under the Dirba constituency. Cheema claimed that Gulzar is not even in the competition. “It is a one-sided contest. Most of the people from the villages are enthusiastic to reelect me. The people have realised that only AAP can fulfil promises and ensure all-round development,” said Cheema.

Dirba, a rural segment was represented by the SAD and Congress in the past, but the AAP wave in 2017 ensured Cheema’s victory. The SAD and Congress have again fielded Gulzar Singh and Ajaib Singh, respectively. Besides, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) has fielded kabaddi player Soma Gharachon.

“We supplied milk, ration and other essentials from Punjab at the borders for a year. Actress and activist Sonia Mann campaigned during the past days. I am getting a huge response. Besides, the people of the segment are unhappy with sitting MLA who did nothing in five years. He never raised the issues of shortage of doctors and other facilities in the segment in the state assembly,” said Gulzar.

Congress candidate Ajaib Singh, who is contesting for the third time, claimed that the main issues this time are education and health facilities. “The voters want Congress to come to power,” he said.

Gharachon said he is popular among locals due to his kabaddi career. “We will fight for the release of Sikh prisoners, debt waiver of small farmers and residential plots to poor Dalit families,” he said.

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    Avtar Singh is a staff correspondent who covers politics, agriculture, crime and rural areas in Sangrur, Barnala and Malerkotla districts of Punjab.

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