Wives Step into Political Arena: Battling for Their Husbands' Electoral Fortunes

| | Chandigarh
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Wives Step into Political Arena: Battling for Their Husbands' Electoral Fortunes

Wednesday, 15 May 2024 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

In this Lok Sabha election, the wives of three prominent leaders from Punjab, each representing a different political spectrum, have emerged as significant contenders on the political stage. Beyond their roles as spouses, they stand as formidable candidates in their own right, fiercely committed to defending their family legacies and political strongholds.


Preneet Kaur, wife of former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, joins the fray alongside Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the spouse of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Anita Som Prakash, married to BJP leader and Union Minister Som Parkash.


While Preneet and Harsimrat bring with them years of political experience and have previously served as Central Ministers, Anita is stepping into the electoral arena for the first time, marking her debut in the political landscape. However, there is one common thread that binds them all together — they are all fighting their husbands’ political battles.


Preneet Kaur, an experienced politician and former Union Minister, is staunchly defending the family bastion of the Patiala Royals. However, in a notable twist, she is now representing a new team. Having previously been elected to the Parliament four times from Patiala as a Congress candidate, Preneet is now seeking re-election under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — a move that has elevated the electoral contest from a simple race to a significant battle of prestige.


Furthermore, this election carries immense significance for Capt Amarinder Singh, especially in light of his decision to sever ties with the Congress after decades of association and align himself with the BJP; and also in the wake of his significant defeat in the 2022 state assembly elections from his stronghold in Patiala. The outcome of this election will undoubtedly shape his political trajectory moving forward.


With Preneet shifting from Congress to the BJP, the grand old party has fielded her former opponent Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, who had stunned the then Union Minister with a decisive defeat in Patiala in 2014. At that time, Gandhi was associated with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Besides the two, Health Minister and AAP leader Dr Balbir Singh and SAD’s former MLA NK Sharma are also in the fray.


Significantly, Preneet has been actively involved in campaign activities in the constituency for several months, alongside her daughter Jai Inder Kaur, who serves as the president of the Punjab BJP’s Mahila Morcha. However, like other BJP leaders, Preneet is also facing mounting opposition from the farming community. “Similar to other BJP candidates, Preneet encounters staunch resistance wherever she campaigns,” noted a BJP leader, highlighting a recent incident where a farmer's death has further complicated the electoral landscape.


For Akali Dal, the 2022 state assembly elections were nothing short of a catastrophe as the party managed to secure only three seats with a meager 20.15 per cent vote share. In contrast, during the 2017 state assembly elections, the party clinched 15 seats with a 25.2 per cent vote share. As the Lok Sabha elections loom, SAD is determined to regain its lost footing. Consequently, the party has adamantly refused to compromise on issues concerning panth or agriculture and has opted not to forge any alliance with the BJP.


In an attempt to disrupt Harsimrat’s streak of victories, AAP has put forward Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khuddian, who previously defeated the Akali stalwart and five-time Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal in the 2022 assembly elections. With the SAD and BJP failing to reach any alliance agreements, the saffron party has nominated former IAS officer Parampal Kaur Sidhu — the daughter-in-law of former Akali Minister Sikander Singh Maluka. Unlike previous elections, the SAD won't be able to leverage an alliance with the BJP, particularly in urban areas where it traditionally holds sway.


Since her debut in electoral politics in 2009, Harsimrat has consistently emerged victorious in all elections — 2009, 2014, and 2019. However, despite her three-time MP status, she faces a challenge of diminishing winning margins. In 2009, she secured the Bathinda seat with a substantial margin of 1,20,948 votes, which drastically reduced to a mere 21,772 votes in 2019.


Adding to the challenges, this election marks the first since the passing of the senior Badal, placing his son Sukhbir Badal at the helm of the party. It serves as a crucial test for Sukhbir as he leads the party independently. To bolster the party's prospects and energize its members, Sukhbir has personally taken charge, spearheading an impactful 'Punjab Bachao Yatra'.


Unlike Preneet and Harsimrat, Anita Som Prakash is venturing into electoral politics for the first time. She is stepping into the political arena from Hoshiarpur with a determination to safeguard her husband's political legacy.


Despite her husband, Som Prakash, being the sitting MP and a two-time MLA from Phagwara, he has chosen not to contest this time, passing the baton to his wife. This transition presented a significant challenge for Anita, especially since her candidacy was approved over the claims of former Union Minister Vijay Sampla, who has had friction with Som Parkash in the past.


While the state BJP leadership has made efforts to appease Sampla’s grievances, some of his close allies have stirred dissent within the party, with a few even opting to depart. Currently, Anita’s foremost challenge lies in quelling factionalism within the party. Consequently, she is dedicating substantial efforts to unite local leaders.


In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Som Prakash secured the seat by a margin of 48,530 votes, defeating Congress candidate Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal, who is now contesting on the AAP ticket. The Congress, meanwhile, has nominated Yamini Gomar, a former AAP leader; while the Akali Dal has put forward the candidacy of four-time MLA and former Minister Sohan Singh Thandal.

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