The broom first dislodged with ease the much-cherished stethoscope from the young hands of Dr Amarjit Singh Thind. Now, the ordinary broom, the poll symbol of the rookie Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is trying to boom in Shahkot when Punjab votes on February 4.
But the task before the 34-year-old MBBS doctor, who has shed his white coat for a white kurta-pyjama, to uproot the powerful rivals with organisational muscle is extraordinary.
His prime foe in the fray is transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar of the Akali Dal, who is eyeing a fifth consecutive victory and Congress’ fresh face Hardev Singh Laddi.
Both the Akali Dal and the Congress have their own pockets of influence, while the green-horn doctor and AAP’s debutant is attempting to get ‘toe-hold’ by banking on “anti-Kohar sentiment” and “parcha-raaj” (booking dissenters) that is visible in the constituency.
In 2012 assembly election, Kohar, now 76, was polled 55,875 votes, defeating Col CD Singh Kamboj (retd) of the Congress by 5,435 votes. The segment with 230 villages is a mix of semi-urban and rural voters–over 35,000 Kamboj Sikh, over 40,000 Jat Sikhs, about 30,000 Balmikis and about 17,000 Rai Sikh among the 1.70-lakh voters.
The key strength of AAP here lies in some disgruntled Congress and Akali Dal foot-soldiers adopting the broom.
While studying at Dasmesh Academy, Anandpur Sahib, the energetic Thind aspired to become a hockey player. But it was not to be. The destiny willed otherwise.
†His parents–father running a roaring pharmaceutical business and mother a doctor–persuaded him to drop the hockey stick and instead go after the cash multiplier craft of a seasoned surgeon.
“I did my MBBS from National Medical College, Birganj of Nepal in 2009,” says Thind as he hurriedly settles in his mud-splattered white Toyota Innova SUV parked in front of the AAP office, adjoining to ‘desi sharab theka’ at Shahkot town.
While giving instructions over phone to the volunteers waiting at Gidderpindi village and to the five party workers enjoying the pre-noon sun outside the party office on a sunny and bright Lohri day, Thind thunders: “Kohar wins because of Congress’ infighting. The Congress faction that is denied ticket supports Kohar.”
The aspiring “surgeon” was hooked to anti-corruption crusade of Anna Hazare in the national capital and started working as a volunteer. “My parents dispatched me to Delhi in 2011 to prepare for the postgraduation,” he says.
That’s how, Thind says, he picked up the broom and dumped parents and his own dream to become a surgeon. “Shahkot needs broom for the major surgery the constituency requires urgently,” says Thind, a Kamboj Sikh, who runs a multi-specialty hospital at his native place, Mehatpur.
Later, Arvind Kejriwal gave Thind the responsibility of Shahkot assembly segment during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. “It was a new turn in my life,” he says, adding, “This new curve I could not have negotiated with such ease sans the support of my wife Dr Ramandeep Kaur and my parents.”
That the curve Dr Thind is negotiating is full of black spots becomes apparent at “Dollar-rich” Gidderpindi village dotted with tastefully constructed bungalows and palatial houses by the Punjabi NRIs.
As Dr Thind’s car pulls up at Gidderpindi at 1pm, there are barely two-dozen villagers from among over 1,000 voters. The size of the crowd leaves AAP volunteers jittery.
Finally, the show begins with Thind making host of promises to the electorate with his punch line: “Jhadoo fer do iss baar”.