Former babus and cops throng Punjab fray: Additional CS to IG to … – The Indian Express

An ex-IAS officer who bagged a UNESCO award, an IPS officer who took premature retirement to join politics, a cop who had once arrested Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, an ex-police officer pitted against Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, and an Arjuna awardee who quit his Punjab Police job last year to take the political plunge. These are among a slew of former bureaucrats and police officers contesting the 20 February Punjab Assembly polls as candidates of various political parties.
The ex-IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, who had quit as IG eight years before retirement after the Punjab and Haryana High Court last year slammed his investigations into the Behbal Kalan firing on anti-sacrilege protesters, is the AAP’s “poster boy” in Majha and its candidate from Amritsar North. Once posted as an SSP in the holy city, he was feted by several Sikh organisations following his resignation.
Dr Jagmohan Singh Raju, who recently resigned as additional chief secretary in Tamil Nadu, is the BJP candidate from the high-profile Amritsar East seat where Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu is pitted against Shriomani Akali Dal(SAD)’s Bikram Majithia.
In Doaba, the fledgling Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) has fielded ex-IAS officer Khushi Ram against sitting Congress MLA and ex-babu Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal from Phagwara. In Malwa, the BJP has given ticket to a retired Punjab-cadre IAS officer S R Ladhar from the Gill constituency.
Though divided by party lines, these ex-officers seem to be united in their desire to “cleanse” and “reform” the system. Raju, who won the UNESCO King Sejong World Prize for Literacy in 2009, says he joined politics because good politicians are essential for good governance. ”And the biggest reform Punjab needs is in its political leadership,’’ he says. Kunwar agrees with it.
Some of them also seem to be united by concerns for Dalits and other vulnerable sections. Raju says his grandfather was a landless labourer, and his father worked hard to join the civil services. Ladhar says he joined politics for the cause of ‘khet mazdoor’. “I took part in the farmer agitation and even went to Tikri but despite the ‘Kisan mazdoor ekta zindabad’ pitch, labourers have been left behind,’’ says Ladhar. The AAP’s Jandiala nominee, Harbhajan Singh, a 2012-batch PCS officer, says he quit his job since he wanted to do social service.
Most of these officers admit that while in service they were taken with politics. “It’s the proximity to politicians that does it,” says one of them. Balwinder Dhaliwal knew what he was getting into, as he got the Congress ticket to contest the 2019 by-election within hours of resigning as the Punjab land records director.
The BJP has fielded former IPS officer and minorities commission chairman Iqbal Singh Lalpura from Ropar. An author of 14 books on Sikh religious scriptures, he is well known as the officer who had arrested Bhindranwale in April 1981.
Most of these former babus and cops have been fielded by the AAP. Ex-ADC Jaswinder Singh Ramdas, who is the AAP’s candidate from Attari, says he joined politics because of “Kejriwalism” and the AAP’s “Delhi model of governance”, even though his father Ujagar Singj Rangreta was an Akali MLA.
For Harmohan Singh Sandhu too, who resigned as AIG last year, politics runs in the family. His mother Satwant Kaur was five-time SAD MLA, while his father Ajaib Singh Sandhu was a two-time SAD MLA. Sandhu joined the SAD but switched to its alliance partner BSP when his constituency Chamkaur Sahib went to the latter. He will now contest this seat on the BSP ticket against CM Channi.
There is a long line-up of sportspersons-turned-cops who are also in the fray. An Arjuna awardee Surinder Singh Sodhi, who was part of the Indian hockey contingent that won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, took premature retirement from Punjab Police last year to join the AAP, which has fielded him from Jalandhar Cantt against sitting Congress MLA and ex-hockey captain Pargat Singh.
Gurlal Ghanaur, who was part of India’s Kabaddi World Cup winning team, quit as ASI with Punjab Police to contest the election as the AAP candidate from Ghanaur. Similarly, Gurdit Sekhon, a renowned national-level basketball player, who had taken premature retirement from Punjab Police in 2010 to join social work, is the AAP’s candidate from Faridkot.
The BJP has picked ex-police officer Ashok Bath, a Gujjar, as its candidate from Balachaur, while the AAP has nominated a former PPS officer Balkar Singh from the Kartarpur seat.
There are also some ex-officers who are making their poll bids for a second time. The renowned basketball player and Arjuna awardee, Sajjan Singh Cheema, who had quit as SP to join the AAP, was unsuccessful when he made his debut from Sultanpur Lodhi in the previous polls. He had later joined the Akali Dal, only to return to the AAP to again try his luck on its ticket from the same constituency now.
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Manraj Grewal SharmaManraj Grewal Sharma is the Resident Editor of The Indian Express at C… read more

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