Rupnagar, formerly known as Ropar, is said to have been founded by Raja Rokeshar during the eleventh century, who named the town after his son Rup Sen. An ecologically sensitive district on the foothills of Shivalik Hills, two of its three assembly constituencies (Anandpur Sahib and Rupnagar) share border with Himachal Pradesh.
Known for its rich forest, flora and fauna, water bodies and wetlands, the district is currently facing environmental degradation. With river Sutlej flowing through it, sand mining remains a major issue. The sub-mountainous areas in the district constitute ‘Kandi Belt’ where water scarcity — both for drinking and irrigation — is a major problem.
Historically, Rupnagar is home to three holy places — Sri Anandpur Sahib, Sri Chamkaur Sahib and Sri Kiratpur Sahib. Politically, the district is known for 1973 Anandpur Sahib Resolution — a charter of demands that was prepared by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) demanding more autonomy for Punjab.
Recently, the district shot to limelight with three-time Chamkaur Sahib MLA Charanjit Singh Channi being appointed the chief minister. However, it wasn’t the first time that an MLA elected from the district, became the CM. In 1972, Giani Zail Singh of Congress, who had won from Anandpur Sahib-Ropar constituency, was also sworn in as Punjab CM.
BSP used to have considerable base here as its founder Kanshi Ram was born in village Pirthipur of Ropar, where a memorial is built at his birthplace.
Here is a look at its three assembly segments:
The constituency, which is a mix of rural and urban area, has three main towns — Anandpur Sahib, Nangal and Kiratpur Sahib. The holy town Anandpur Sahib, also known as the city of bliss, is historically supreme for Sikh community as the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, laid foundation of Khalsa Panth here in 1699. The town is home to Gurdwara Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, which marks birthplace of Khalsa Panth. Virasat-e-Khalsa, one of the largest museums in the world, spread over 6500 acres and depicting Sikh history, is in Anandpur Sahib. It was opened in 2011 during SAD-BJP regime.
Nangal is the most populated town of the constituency. The Bhakra-Nangal dam, one of the largest in Asia, is situated near Nangal (Punjab-HP border). Kiratpur Sahib, another holy town in the constituency is mainly known for Gurdwara Patalpuri, where Sikhs take the ashes of the dead for immersion in its sarovar.
The sub-mountainous Changar area in this constituency has been facing water scarcity for decades. Nearly 30 villages in Changar belt of Anandpur Sahib do not have access to clean water for drinking and irrigation both, even as the constituency has Nangal hydel channel, Anandpur hydel channel and Sutlej passing through it. In remote villages, phone signals and internet connectivity remains an issue.
An overbridge being constructed to solve traffic issue is also being opposed by locals apprehending it will affect shopkeepers in the area.
State owned Punjab Alkalies and Chemicals Limited, based at Nangal, was recently sold to a private entity leading to uproar by locals. Despite being represented by Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Rana KP Singh, the constituency lags behind in basic amenities with water and unemployment being major issues.
In summers, people from 30 villages of Changar belt are forced to leave their homes and move closer to Sutlej to have access to water. Sand mining on banks of Sutlej, environmental degradation, declining water table and green cover loss are other issues.
Sitting MLA 2017
Rana Kanwar Pal Singh (INC)
2012: Madan Mohan Mittal (BJP)
Congress has again given ticket to Rana KP Singh, the Punjab assembly Speaker. AAP nominee is advocate Harjot Singh Bains, an advocate who had contested from Sahnewal of Ludhiana in 2017 but lost. BSP which is contesting in alliance with SAD, has fielded Nitin Nanda, a former Shiv Sena leader who earlier lost polls from here as an Independent candidate.
The constituency is broadly divided into three areas: Ropar city, ghaar da ilaaka (villages in sub-mountainous Kandi areas) and Nurpur Bedi. The Guru Gobind Singh Thermal Power Plant is also in Ropar, currently in shambles with its units working on and off since some years now.
Locals say that the tourism potential of Ropar is not being harnessed to its full potential. Pincassia Tourist Complex, a government owned facility, allegedly given on lease to a private firm, has been demolished but successive governments have failed to rebuilt it. A new bus stand is also a long pending demand of people here. With a bridge at the entrance of Ropar lying closed, business of shopkeepers at Pull Bazar has been affected.
People of villages from Kandi belt mostly depend on dairy business but there is no veterinary hospital facility in the area for the locals to get their animals treated. They also struggling with water scarcity.
Human-animal conflict in jungle areas, bad roads near HP border and internet connectivity are other issues.
Sitting MLA 2017
Amarjit Singh Sandoa (AAP)
2012: Dr Daljit Singh Cheema (SAD)
SAD has again fielded former education minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema from Ropar. AAP has denied ticket to Amarjit Singh Sandoa, a taxi driver who won from here on party ticket in 2017. Later, he joined Congress ahead of Lok Sabha polls in 2019. He faced allegations of molesting a woman and extortion from a sand mining accused. He rejoined AAP but the party has fielded Dinesh Chadha, an RTI activist. Punjab Youth Congress president Brinder Singh Dhillon is Congress nominee. Both Cheema and Dhillon had faced defeat from Sandoa in 2017 as AAP wave had swept Ropar.
Chamkaur Sahib (Reserved)
The reserved constituency shot into limelight after its MLA Charanjit Singh Channi was sworn in as Punjab CM after the ouster of Captain Amarinder Singh. Historically, the town is known for Saka Chamkaur Sahib — a battle that was fought between Mughal Army and followers of Guru Gobind Singh, in which Guru’s two elder sons — Saahibzaadas Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh along with 40 other Sikhs — attained martyrdom. Gurdwara Sri Qatalgarh Sahib commemorates the site where the battle took place.
Locals say that Channi’s elevation, first as cabinet minister and then as CM, sped up pace of developmental works in the constituency but illegal sand mining and unemployment remains major issues. Channi’s residence in Morinda is also a part of this constituency and has become hotbed of protests by teachers, contractual employees etc ahead of polls.
Some villages here on the other side of Sutlej face transportation problem and have been demanding construction of a bridge. Sewage, clean water and lack of public toilets are other local issues.
Sitting MLA 2017
Charanjit Singh Channi (INC)
2012: Charanjit Singh Channi (INC)
2007: Charanjit Singh Channi (IND)
2002: Satwant Kaur (SAD)
1997: Satwant Kaur (SAD)
Congress has fielded Channi, who first won from here as an Independent in 2007. SAD-BSP nominee is Harmohan Singh Sandhu, a former AIG of Punjab Police, who shifted from SAD to BSP after the seat went into latter’s kitty. He is the son of former cabinet minister and four-time SAD MLA Satwant Kaur. Dr Charanjit Singh, an eye surgeon, is AAP nominee. He lost to Channi in 2017.