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Drugs big problem in Punjab; politicians only interested in mudslinging: SAD (A) nominee Sidhana

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Chandigarh, May 14 (PTI) Gangster-turned-social activist Lakha Sidhana, who is testing political waters from the Bathinda parliamentary constituency, claims that his rivals are shying away from speaking about real issues like the drug menace and are only happy slinging mud.

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Forty-five-year old Sidhana, who is the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) candidate, says he is getting an overwhelming response and the people have told him they would be giving him a chance, having tried all other major political parties.

Popularly known as Lakha Sidhana, Lakhvir Singh hails from Sidhana village of Bathinda district.

He had unsuccessfully contested the 2022 assembly polls from Maur assembly seat as an Independent. Though lost, he had an impressive outing garnering 28,091 votes.

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In the 2012 assembly polls, he unsuccessfully contested from the Rampura Phul seat on the symbol of the People's Party of Punjab, which was formed by the state's current Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal after quitting the Shiromani Akali Dal.

"Drugs are a major issue. The situation is so bad that 'Chitta' (a synthetic drug) is easily available. In many villages like Manna, Raike Kalan, Kattianwali, several youths perished due to drug addiction," Sidhana told PTI.

"It is a very serious issue and it is not being discussed at all as rival political leaders fear that they will be questioned by people about the steps taken to contain it when they were in power," he added.

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Earlier, the Congress had promised to wipe out drugs and after it, AAP vowed to end it, he said, adding to the list of issues afflicting the state, unemployment and corruption.

"Real issues of Punjab are not being raised in these elections. They are missing. Only politics is being done. Political leaders are just indulging in mudslinging and criticising each other," he said.

Mounting state debt, a stagnation in MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee) wages, and revival of the old pension scheme for government employees are some of the issues Sidhana said he is campaigning for.

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He said the people are "disappointed" with AAP's performance in the state.

"Mann had said that his government would do so much work that there would not be any need to seek votes as people will vote themselves. Now what is the need to seek votes? People of Punjab are thoroughly disappointed. They have seen governments of all parties, SAD-BJP alliance, Congress regime and now AAP is ruling in the state. People had voted for 'badlav' and they had high expectations but nothing happened," Sidhana claimed.

Asked about his prospects, he said, "People are silent … There will be a surprising result." Sidhana said he is also working towards promoting Punjabi language and has formed a 'Punjabi Maa Boli Satkar Jathebandi' for the purpose. "We are not against any language but there cannot be a compromise on our mother tongue." In 2002, Sidhana was booked under various sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act for defacing English text on the sign boards installed at a toll plaza in Barnala.

A postgraduate in history from Punjabi university, Sidhana is currently facing 13 criminal cases, according to his poll affidavit.

He is pitted against SAD candidate and three-time MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, AAP's Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, BJP's Parampal Kaur Sidhu, and Congress's Jeet Mohinder Sidhu. PTI CHS VSD VN VN

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