In the photograph, can you recognise who is with deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal? If your guess is General JJ Singh, former Indian Army Chief; then you are correct. He will be contesting against Capt. Amarinder Singh from Patiala Urban on SAD ticket.
As Punjab starts gearing up for the state Vidhan Sabha elections, the Babus (Bureaucrats) have also decided to make a foray in the run up to the State Assembly. While this is not new for the conventional parties of Indian National Congress (INC) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD); the recent one, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in a bid to project its clean image has also decided to give tickets to various Administrative and Police Officers. Akali Dal has always been a front-runner when it comes to giving tickets to IAS-IPS-PCS officers, but this time the competition will increase with candidates of Congress and AAP. And it is not only the parties, but these Babus themselves take an active interest in getting a ticket for themselves or their family members.
2012 Vidhan Sabha Elections
- Darbara Singh Guru, IAS and former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, contested from constituency of Bhadaur (Reserved) on Akali Dal ticket but lost to Mohammed Sadique of Congress.
- Pargat Singh, Olympian and Director of Sports (Punjab), contested from constituency of Jalandhar Cantt. on Akali Dal ticket and won against Jagbir Singh Brar who had defected to Congress from Akali Dal.
- Paramdeep Singh Gill, IPS and former DGP, contested from constituency of Moga on Akali Dal ticket but lost to Joginder Pal Jain of Congress. Gill’s father, Nachhatar Singh was a Congress MLA from Moga before he was murdered allegedly by terrorists.
- Shiv Ram Kaler, IAS and former ADC Ludhiana (Additional Deputy Commissioner), contested from constituency of Jagraon (Reserved) on Akali Dal ticket and won against Ishar Singh of Congress.
- Malerkotla became the hot seat for bureaucrats of both the parties. While Akali Dal fielded Farzana Nissara Khatoon, wife of IPS and former-DGP (Prisons) Izhar Alam; Congress fielded Razia Sultana, wife of IPS and ADGP (Internal Vigilance) Mohammed Mustaffa. The two-time winner Razia, lost to first-timer Khatoon.
- Sukhwant Singh Sarao, retired-IAS and former ADC (Additional Deputy Commissioner), contested from constituency of Lehra on Akali Dal ticket but lost to Rajinder Kaur Bhattal of Congress.
- Amarjit Singh Sidhu, retired-IAS, contested from constituency of Talwandi Sabo on Akali Dal ticket but lost to Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu of Congress.
- Som Parkash, retired-IAS, contested from constituency of Phagwara (Reserved) on BJP ticket and won against Balbir Kumar Sodhi of Congress.
The parties trust them because of their experience in handling the Administration, Law and Order; and having a direct contact with the public. Most of them have a clean image and with their knowledge of Academics coupled with on-ground work, make them a suitable candidate for the parties. Most of them step into politics post-retirement for it gives them a chance to keep working for the society.
In 2017, the prominent faces are DS Guru, former principal secretary to the CM and TP Singh, son-in-law of Rajya Sabha MP SS Dhindsa.
2017 Vidhan Sabha Elections
- Akali Dal has trusted their former aide Darbara Singh Guru, retired-IAS officer, but this time from constituency of Bassi Pathana (Reserved) instead of Bhadaur.
- Shiv Ram Kaler, retired-IAS officer will contest from constituency of Nihal Singh Wala (Reserved) instead of Jagraon on Akali Dal ticket.
- Retired-IAS, Som Parkash, who successfully contested from constituency of Phagwara (Reserved) on BJP ticket, has been trusted again with a ticket from Phagwara.
- Runner-up in last election; Razia Sultana, wife of IPS and ADGP (Internal Vigilance) Mohammed Mustaffa; will contest election for the fourth time on the ticket of Congress, from the constituency of Malerkotla.
- Tejinder Pal Singh Sidhu, IAS and former DC Mohali (Deputy Commissioner), who is also son-in-law of Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa will contest on Akali Dal ticket from Mohali.
- Kuldeep Singh Vaid, IAS and former DC Moga (Deputy Commissioner) is fielded by Congress from Ludhiana’s Gill (Reserved) constituency.
- Amar Singh, former-IAS has been trusted by Congress to contest from Raikot (Reserved) seat.
- Kartar Singh Pehalwan; former-IPS, Rustom-e-Hind and winner of Arjuna Award in wrestling & Padam Shri, has been given a ticket by AAP to contest from Tarn Taran constituency.
- Ajaib Singh Bhatti, ex-PCS, who is a sitting-MLA of Congress, will contest elections from Malout (Reserved) constituency again.
- Sajjan Singh Cheema, ex-PPS, has been fielded from Sultanpur Lodhi constituency by AAP.
- Harbhajan Singh, ex-PCS, will contest elections on the ticket of AAP from Jandiala seat (Reserved).
- Aapna Punjab Party, floated by Sucha Singh Chhotepur after he resigned as Punjab convenor for AAP, has fielded Hardip Singh Kingra, ex-IFS of Himachal-cadre from the constituency of Faridkot.
- Satbir Singh Khatra, son of DIG Ranbir Singh Khatra, will contest elections on ticket of Akali Dal from Patiala Rural constituency. DIG Khatra had been a close aide of former-SGPC president Late Gurcharan Singh Tohra.
Observers say the first phase of Punjab bureaucracy taking a turn towards politicisation began during the days of terrorism when under President’s rule the civil servants exercised absolute powers. In the post-terrorism days, after 1992, politicians began banking heavily on civil servants and shared power. But, after 1997, politicians and bureaucrats adopted a policy of ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’. The count of bureaucrats contesting elections has increased from around 20 in 2012 to over 35 in 2017. However, giving a ticket these babus is not a not guarantee of winning the elections. While the strongest contender Darbara Singh Guru lost last time, heavyweight Paramdeep Singh Gill suffered similar fate.
Come February 4 and voters will tell them again; that in a democracy, it is the common man who will decide his ruler’s destiny.