<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With just days to go for polling, Patiala is abuzz with political activity. The New Moti Bagh Palace—Amarinder’s residence—has become the epicentre of the Congress’ poll campaign.MP Singh, a retired Punjab Civil Services officer who’s worked with Patiala’s first family for years, is the man running the Congress war-room from the palace. But it is not the Maharaja but his wife Preneet Kaur—a three time Lok Sabha MP from Patiala and the sitting MLA from here—who’s in charge for the moment. She is meeting hordes of people everyday—many of whom are Akalis who’ve deserted the Shiromani Akali Dal to join the Congress in the run-up to the polls.“The Congress worker is very upbeat, especially since Captain Sahib announced his candidature from Lambi. When he had announced his candidature from Amritsar (in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll in which he defeated Arun Jaitley), it gave a big fillip to the party. This (decision to contest from Lambi) is a bigger fillip because this is a state election,” Preneet Kaur tells DNA. She points outs that Akalis are coming in and joining Congress in ‘droves’ because “they themselves don’t want the kind of government that has ruled for the last 5-6 years”.Ask her about the rationale about Captain Amarinder Singh contesting from Lambi and she says, “The message is quite clear that we are taking on the Badals. The head of that clan is Parkash Singh Badal. And to stand against him the message goes loud and clear to everybody.”Preneet, however, is not taking the Lambi battle for granted. “It’s a tough call because Badal Sahib is very revered and respected…that’s his home seat. It’s a real challenge and we will fight it out to the last,” she adds.In and around the Moti Bagh Palace campus, the sight of 65-year-old Bahadur Chand waving the Congress flag for hours together sums up the mood here. That the Congress is upbeat this time would be an understatement.“We came here from Rajasthan years ago and Captain Sahib’s father gave us space to settle. We are labourers, these palaces have come up before our eyes. The royal family has done a lot for us. I have been associated with Congress for over 40 years now. Whenever there’s a poll, I am there bearing the party flag. The victory will be ours this time,” Bahadur Chand Jhandewala says.The last time Captain Amarinder Singh contested from Patiala, he defeated his Akali opponent by over 42,000 votes. In fact, he got almost 70 percent of the total votes polled. This time, too, despite the Akalis pitting former Army Chief General JJ Singh against him and the Aam Aadmi Party hoping to give him a fight, the erstwhile Maharaja of Patiala has little reason to worry in Patiala. In fact, how he fares in Lambi—the citadel of the Badals—is what is being watched more closely now.It’s only after a journey of another 200-odd kms from Patiala that one reaches Lambi—the pocket borough of Parkash Singh Badal. In the last Punjab assembly polls, Badal senior—as he’s often called—romped home to victory by defeating his cousin and Congress candidate Maheshinder Singh Badal by a huge margin of 68,000 votes, and his own brother Gurdas Badal was also contesting against him. Parkash Singh Badal campaigned saying this would be the last time he would contest a poll.At the Badal village, the lack of colour & political activity is palpable. A traveller crossing through Badal may not even realise that this village in the Lambi constituency that gave Punjab a five-time CM and is again going to polls on February 4.“Nobody knows Captain Amarinder Singh here. This is the Badal home. He will win hands down here,” says Yousuf Khan, a Badal resident. “The Lambi seat is theirs for the taking. That’s why they are busy campaigning in other areas,” says another resident.However, in Lambi, while the Akali campaign appears to be subdued, Congress workers are charged up with Captain Amarinder Singh. But what is most intriguing is the ground level support for AAP. It’s candidate Jarnail Singhhas quit the Delhi assembly to contest against Badal here.Will Lambi prove to be Captain Amarinder’s swansong? Will it be Badal’s Waterloo? Or will it see an outsider upstaging the giants? While February 4 will seal the fate of all those in the reckoning, the answer will be known on March 11.


Punjab elections 2017: Patiala to Lambi – A tale of 2 bastions, father of all battles