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Issue:January' 2018


Captain’s show in Congress

K S Chawla

Amarinder Singh Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has established his supremacy in the Punjab Congress while distributing the tickets for the thirteen Lok Sabha seats. The Congress has announced eleven candidates for eleven seats and all of them have the stamp of Amarinder Singh. Only two seats namely Bathinda and Ferozepur are left where the Congress has yet to take a decision on the nominees.
Bathinda seat is held by Harsimrat Badal of the Akali Dal who is a minister in the Modi Government and Ferozepur seat was also with the AkaliDal and the sitting MP Sher Singh Ghabhaya of the Akali Dal.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, Congress had four, seats and all the four namely Santokh Singh (Jalandhar reserve), Gurmeet Singh Aujla (Amritsar), Ravneet Bittu (Ludhiana) and Sunil Jakhar (Gurdaspur) have been retained in their seats.

The candidates for seven seats announced by the Congress include Preneeet Kaur wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh from Patiala, Jasbir Singh Dimpa (Khadoor Sahib), Kewal Singh Dhillon (Sangrur), Mohammad Sadiq (Faridkot reserve), Manish Tiwari (Anandpur Sahib), Rajkumar from Hoshiarpur-reserve) Dr. Amar Singh former IAS officer from Fatehgar Sahib respectively. All these seven are the nominees of Amarinder Singh. Amarinder Singh was fully supported by Asha Kumari, General Secretary AICC and incharge Punjab Affairs and Sunil Jakhar President of the PPCC was left isolated.

Manish Tiwari There was strong opposition to the nomination of Manish Tiwari from the members of the screening committee including Sunil Jakhar as it was alleged that he had run away in 2014 from Ludhiana seat from where he was elected for the first time in 2009. Even Rahul Gandhi was not willing to give him the ticket. Ultimately he sought the help of Sonia Gandhi who recommended his case and Amarinder also assured Rahul that he would ensure his victory. Similarly there was opposition to the candidature of Kewal Singh Dhillon from Sangrur and Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhathal was in the fore-front to get the ticket. In Sangrur too, Amarinder assured that he would ensure his victory.

There were as many as 177 aspirants for the Congress ticket and a strong wave of resentment brew up in the party. However, Amarinder has succeeded in curbing the rebellion and met the digrountled elements for two days in the Punjab Congress office in Chandigarh and promised them that they would be given some positions when the chairmen of the corporations and the boards are appointed.

Among the rebels were Shamsher Singh Dhullo former president PPCC whose wife has joined the AAP and she has been given a ticket from Fatehgarh Sahib. Mohinder Singh Kaypee former President PPCC was also unhappy for not getting ticket from jalandhar or Hoshiarpur. He had lost from Hoshiarpur in 2014. Thus Amarinder has been able to leave his stamp on the candidate selection.

Bibi Jagir Kaur Shiromini Akali Dal has announced candidates for eight Lok Sabha seats and has mainly depended on old timers or loyalist who were defeated in the vidhan sabha elections. Akali Dal is in alliance with the BJP in Punjab and left three seats for the alliance partner.
The Akali Dal has given ticket to Maheshinder Singh Grewal former MLA and Minister from Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat, Gulzar Singh Ranike from Faridkot, Anandpur Sahib (Prem Singh Chandhumajra), Bibi Jagir Kaur (Khadoor Sahib), Parminder Singh Dhindsa former finance minister and son of rebel leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa from Sangrur, Surjit Singh Rakhra former minister from Patiala and Darbara Singh Guru former IAS officer from Fatehgarh Sahib respectively. The Akali Dal has not yet announced the name of Harsimrat Kaur from Bathinda and Sukhbir Badal is expected to seek election from Ferozepur seat.

Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa who was the first to revolt against the leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal has declared that he would not support his son Parminder Dhindsa who is seeking election from Sangrur. The Akali Dal is being haunted by the incidents of sacrilege and police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura in Faridkot district. The radical Sikhs who launched 192 days Bargari Panthic Morcha against the incidents of sacrilege and police firing is again active is likely to start morcha at Bargari.

There is strong resentment among the Sikhs over the transfer of Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh IG who is a senior member of the special investigation team (SIT) setup by Amarinder Singh Government after the report of Justice Ranjit Singh Commission into the incidents of sacrilege and police firing. Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh has been transferred following complaint by the Akali Dal of alleged bias against the Akali leaders by him. Even the Chief Minister has written to the Election Commission against the transfer of IG.

The AAM AADMI PARTY (AAP) is in Punjab in tatters because of the bickerings and defections. The AAP has been trying to have alliance with the Congress in Punjab but Amarinder Singh put his foot down and announced that Congress would not have any alliance with AAP or any other political party in Punjab. Amarinder has asserted that the Congress would bag all the thirteen seats in Punjab.

Bhagwant Mann AAP has put up Bhagwant Mann sitting MP and President of the state unit from Sangrur, Prof. Baljinder Kaur MLA from Talwandi Sabo, has been given the ticket from Bathinda, Neena Mittal from Patiala. She is a businesswoman of Rajpura, Prof. Sadhu Singh MP from Faridkot and Dr. Tejpal Singh from Ludhiana. Justice Zora Singh (retired) who enquired into the incidents of sacrilege and police firing during the SAD-BJP government has been given AAP ticket from Jalandhar. Many senior office bearers of the AAP have left the party and joined the Congress. Munish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi who is incharge of Punjab has stated that the AAP would raise the issues of unfulfilled promises by the Congress government. AAP has given tickets to three women candidates.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira who resigned from AAP has formed his own party known as Punjab Ekta Party and he has formed a Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) in coalition with Dr. Dharamvir’s party of Nawan Punjab and Lok Insaff Party of Simarjeet Singh Bains of Ludhiana. CPI and BSP are also part of this alliance.

The AkaliDal (Taksali) which is headed by a veteran Akali leader Ranjit Singh Brahmpura who revolted against Badals alongwith Dr. Rattan Singh Ajnala and Sewa Singh Sekhwan has also put up candidates for the Lok Sabha election. The Akali Dal (Taksali) has fielded Bir Devinder Singh former Deputy Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Anandpur Sahib and Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra widow of Jaswant Singh a human rights activist who was allegedly kidnapped and killed during the militancy and his dead body was not traced has been put up from Khadoor Sahib a panthic seat.

Sukhbir Singh Badal Sukhbir Singh Badal The Akali Dal (Taksali) had first nominated General JJ Singh retired army Chief from Khadoor Sahib, but withdrew him under pressure from the sikh groups. Sukhpal Khaira’s Punjab Democratic Alliance is also extending support to her. The leaders of the Akali Dal (Taksali) have not been able to make their impact on the Sikh politics as was expected after the incidents of sacrilege and police firing as they all resigned from the mainstream Akali Dal as a protest against the leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal.
As a matter of fact, Sukhbir Singh Badal has succeeded in re-establishing his leadership after aggressive campaigning against the Congress and the rebel Akalis. Although he is making tall claims of winning majority seats in Punjab, yet the Sikhs are not ready to reconcile to the situation created after the sacrilege and police firing incidents.

The Bhartiya Janata Party which is ruling at the Centre has been in a very miserable position and is considered the weakest party in Punjab at present. The BJP leadership of Punjab has not been able to announce candidate for the three Lok Sabha seats which it has to contest in alliance with the Akali Dal.

As a matter of fact, the Punjab BJP does not have a leader of the stature of Late Dr. Baldev Parkash, Balramji Das Tandon and Hit Abhilashi. The party is badly divided and the central leadership of the BJP has not paid any situation towards the Punjab unit. The Central leadership feels three seats do not make any difference to them. It is because of this reason that the Hindus of Punjab have moved towards the Congress.

The campaigning in Punjab is gradually picking up.