Go, go, gone: With a ticket, Majithia’s wife makes the leap from the auction house to the polling stage

Her husband Bikram Singh Majithia is one of the most controversial politicians in Punjab, his family one of the most prominent in the state. Ganieve Kaur was, however, virtually unknown in her constituency of Majitha in Amritsar, until she literally stepped out of her shadow, under fire at the polls two days ago.

Kaur, 46, received the Shiromani Akali Dal ticket from Majitha after Majithia moved to Amritsar East – in a veritable ‘Jarnail of Majha’ swagger taking on the challenge issued by the leader of the State Congress Navjot Singh Sidhu to fight against him.

Kaur kicked off the campaign trail on Wednesday, and voters who have elected Majithia since 2007 said it was their first glimpse of her. Over the years, the art lover has stayed away from her husband’s campaigns, as well as his many controversies. Recently booked in a case with alleged ties to state drug traffickingMajithia got early bail.

Majithia and Kaur got married in 2009 and have two children.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kaur said when Majithia first asked her to run for Majitha in the Feb. 20 election, she thought he was joking. She resolved to do her best for the siege. “I will take care of Majitha constituency like I take care of my children,” she said. On Tuesday, Majithia said: “Even two days ago, my wife now knew this (her name as a candidate) could happen.”

But while the Majithias have been at the heart of Punjab’s political history, Kaur too comes from an illustrious family, and is said to be a close relative of Dera Radha leader Swami Beas, Baba Gurinder Singh. Baba Gurinder Singh’s visit to Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s home after the case against Majithia was registered had raised many eyebrows.

Defending Majithia at a press conference recently, Akali Dal chairman and his brother-in-law Sukhbir Singh Badal described him and Kaur as “very religious people”.

In her affidavit, Kaur describes herself as a businesswoman and a farmer. Among the assets, she declares three vehicles, jewelry worth Rs 35.25 lakh and agricultural land in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, excluding shares.

From 2005 to 2009, Kaur was Christie’s representative in India. His role was to promote Christie’s in India and establish its office in Mumbai following a temporary closure. She has conducted several auctions for Christie’s.

Kaur reportedly became interested in art through her family collection. According to a press release from the auction house, she graduated from the University of Delhi in 1996 before obtaining a degree in fine and decorative arts from Christie’s Education in London in 1996.

Uma Nair, art critic and curator, said: “Ganieve’s time at Christie’s was significant for the Indian art market. Her knowledge was not limited to Indian art, and she also knew the art of Southeast Asia.

Elections might be a new area, but Kaur might not have a very difficult task. While the case against Majithia was an effort by the Channi government to counter the accusation that Congress and Akalis were together over the drug racket, Congress’s challenge to Majitha’s seat is badly splintered.

In 2017, top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi started his campaign in Punjab from Majitha, staging a rally for Sukhjinder Raj Singh party candidate Lali Majithia. Now Sukhjinder Singh is Majitha’s AAP candidate, while on the Congress ticket is his brother Jagwinder Pal Singh Majithia – and Congress votes will likely be split between the two. Local leader Bhagwant Singh Sachar, who was hoping to get the congressional ticket, is also sulking.

Congress sources said the party wanted to field Majitha’s Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla, to challenge Majithia, but the plan fell through.

On Akali’s side, there is no visible breach in loyalty to Majithia. In 2017, his 65,803 votes were more than the total votes of the candidates for Congress (42,919) and the AAP (10,252). This is when the Akalis had their worst showing in the state.

In the 2018 zila parishad elections, the Akalis won up to 20 of the bloc’s 24 Samiti seats in Majitha, as well as all zila parishad seats. It happened again amid a congressional sweep in the rest of the state.