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Punjab election results: H.S. Phoolka wins Dakha seat, loses political hot seat

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Nikita Doval

New Delhi: For more than three decades now H.S. Phoolka has been known as the man who has toiled endlessly to bring justice to victims of the 1984 riots. But now at the age of 60, the celebrated Delhi lawyer is looking at a new identity, that of a legislator. Phoolka who contested from Dakha, on the outskirts of Ludhiana, won the seat by defeating his nearest rival, Akali candidate Manpreer Singh Ayali.

It is a bittersweet victory for Phoolka, who even till Friday evening, was reportedly being considered as a chief ministerial candidate in case the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power. But while Phoolka had the people’s mandate, his party has fared rather badly. Far from forming the government, AAP has had a rather poor showing of only 19 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly.

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For Phoolka, this win has been second time lucky as he had narrowly lost the Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat in 2014. In fact he had resigned from all posts in the AAP in 2015 citing work pressure. However his was one of the first names released by the AAP in August last year as candidates for the assembly elections.

Throughout his campaign trail, Phoolka stressed his court work for the riot victims as an example of his commitment to justice. He minced no words when it comes to criticisms of the Badals, Punjab’s ruling family, and accused them of running the state like their own fiefdom. In fact, criticism of the Akalis as well as the Congress was a strong feature of the AAP poll plank but it clearly failed to work.

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In an interview to online news portal, The Wire, Phoolka had compared the state of Punjab to a patient in the ICU, with every field in “shambles”. He has time and again cited the drug menace plaguing Punjab as one of the state’s biggest challenges and pledged his party’s support in tackling it.

A 2015 All India Institute of Medical Sciences-assisted study has stated that four people in 100 in age group of 18-35 are drug-dependent. The study had even stated that drugs worth Rs 20 crore are consumed every day in the state.

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Exit polls had predicted a tight race in Punjab between the AAP and the Congress though the former was confident that it will emerge as the single largest party. In the 2014 general elections also the state had reposed its faith in the party by electing four candidates to the Lok Sabha. However, two of these MPs, Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa, have been suspended from the party. If the party did indeed win, Phoolka would have been an ideal candidate to lead them though he himself has denied any ambitions to the post. In an interview to The Economic Times in 2016 he had stated, “I have absolutely no aspirations, no greed at all.”

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