How allegations of sex and sleaze overshadowed Punjab bypolls

The poll campaign was completely overtaken by sordid allegations of immorality.

 |  3-minute read |   13-10-2017
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Things couldn’t have gone lower than they did in the fortnight-long campaign for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election on October 11. Abandoning the usual promises or claims of governance, development or local livelihood issues, the poll campaign was, sadly, completely overtaken by sordid allegations and counter-allegations of immorality and sleaze.

On September 29, the police in Gurdaspur booked former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) minister Sucha Singh Langah for rape. This on the complaint of a 39-year-old woman constable who alleged that the former minister forced her into having sexual relations with him for nearly eight years by threatening her with death.

While Langah surrendered on October 3 and was duly arrested by the police, it all primarily queered the pitch for the BJP, which contested the by-poll in alliance with the SAD.

Not only was Langah the senior most SAD leader of the constituency, in acknowledgement of the influence and muscle power he commanded, the BJP had drafted him as campaign in-charge of its nominee, Swarn Salaria — a rich businessman.

And even as the saffron party calibrated its response to the scandal, things became even more problematic when pornographic video purportedly depicting Langah engaging in sex with a woman, went viral on social media.

khanna690_101317015638.jpgThe by-election in Gurdaspur was necessitated by the untimely demise of the incumbent MP, Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna.

Predictably, the Congress had a field day taking down the BJP at poll rallies addressed among others, by a vociferous Navjot Sidhu who went straight for the SAD-BJP’s jugular.

But wait, there was more to emerge. Just as the SAD-BJP appeared to have managed to put a lid on the Langah affair — removing him from all SAD posts and even nudging the Sikh clergy to announce his excommunication — rape allegations against Salaria surfaced.

This was accompanied by sleazy still pictures allegedly depicting the BJP candidate in the company of a former air-hostess.

Their backs to the wall, BJP leaders cried foul, blaming the ruling Congress for sullying the election campaign. Apparent attempts at retaliation — the surfacing of another porn video amid whispers that it showed the Congress’s former Beas legislator Jasbir Singh Dimpa — didn't really cut it with voters.

If anything, the episode may just have won some brownie points for the ruling party with an understandably enraged Dimpa lodging a police complaint that was promptly converted into an FIR.

The Aam Admi Party’s nominee retired major general Suresh Khajuria kept aloof of the accusations of sleaze flying around Gurdaspur and did try to raise local issues like depleting groundwater and problems of farmers with land on the Pakistan side of the electrified security fence. But the narrative sadly remained focused on the allegations against Langah and Salaria.

The by-election in Gurdaspur was necessitated by the untimely demise of the incumbent MP, Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna. The votes will be counted on October 15.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

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Asit Jolly Asit Jolly @asitjolly

Journalist with India Today magazine.

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