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Punjab polls: Congress' latest list bears SAD touch. Sampla calls the shots in BJP

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 12 January 2017, 19:44 IST

With time running out fast, the two national parties - Congress and BJP made some headway in declaring their pending candidates for the Punjab Assembly polls but their complete lists haven't been declared even now.

While the Congress on Thursday, declared 23 of its remaining 40 candidates, the BJP declared 17 of its 23 candidates. The remaining seats are becoming potboilers are yet to decide on what to do.

The much awaited Congress list saw the party continuing to adhere to the 'one-family-one-ticket rule' while keeping 'winnability' as the sole criteria. The party has also fielded former Akali leaders who have joined its ranks recently. The party has claimed that in keeping with its decision not to give more than one ticket in a family, the party has nominated Karmjit Kaur Chaudhary, wife of Jalandhar MP Santok Singh Chaudhary from Phillaur seat which is reserved for SCs.

From Samana it has fielded Rajinder Singh who is the son of senior vice president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) Lal Singh on the party ticket. From Fazilka, the party has fielded Davinder Ghubaya who is the son of sitting Akali MP from Firozpur Sher Singh Ghubaya.

The Congress list also contains the names of two women candidates taking the tally of women contestants to 10.

Expressing satisfaction at the selection, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh said the remaining 17 seats would also be declared soon. He claimed that the party is well prepared for the electoral battle while expressing confidence that it would sweep the polls.

The Congress has also chosen Kamaljit Singh Karwal, a former Akali leader who was also close to the Bains brothers who floated the Lok Insaf Party to contest the polls in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He will be contesting from Atam Nagar constituency from where Simarjit Singh Bains is contesting as the LIP-AAP alliance candidate. Another former Akali leader to find his name in the list is Pritam Singh Kotbhai from Bhucho Mandi.

The other contestants in the list include sitting Congress MLA Rakesh Pandey from Ludhiana (North) and sitting Akali MLA Rajwinder Kaur Bhagikay from the reserved constituency of Nihal Singh Wala.

The party has fielded Tejinder Bittu from Jalandhar (North), and former MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee from Adampur. Deepinder Singh Dhillon is a new entrant to the Congress who has been fielded from Dera Bassi.

Arun Dogra, son of former Punjab minister Ramesh Chander Dogra, has been given the chance again by the party to contest from From Dasuya.

Although there has been resentment among Congress leaders in the state over the attempts to field people inducted from other parties, mainly the Akalis, Amarinder has been saying that the party would field such candidates from seats where its own candidates are not in a position to win. It remains to be seen how his detractors react to the seat allocation.

Party sources say that the Congress has been gearing up to meet the eventuality of rebellion which has become a hallmark of the party over the years. The leadership has been saying that the aspirants who fail to get tickets will be accommodated against political postings in boards and corporations once it form the government.

BJP list bears Sampla's touch

Meanwhile, the BJP list has five first timers, five sitting MLAs, and seven candidates who had lost in 2012. The list is said to have the stamp of Union minister and state BJP chief Vijay Sampla. The six seats on which the candidature has been withheld include four that were occupied by ministers in the last Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine government.

The party has gone in for fielding Kamal Chetli from Ludhiana (West), Gurdev Sharma from Ludhiana (Central), Arun Narang from Abohar, Rajesh Honey from Amritsar (East) the seat that was earlier represented by cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur and Harjit Singh Grewal from Rajpura. These are first timers who have been chosen by Sampla.

The five MLAs who have been fielded again are Sukhjeet Kaur Shahi from Dasuya, Ashwani Sharma from Pathankot, Dinesh Babbu from Sujanpur, Seema Kumari from Bhoa and KD Bhandari from Jalandhar (North).

Showing confidence in the candidates who had lost the last polls, the party has once again fielded Parveen Bansal from Ludhiana (North), Rakesh Gill from Amritsar (West), Tarun Chugh from Amritsar (Central), BD Dhupar from Dinanagar, Tikshan Sud from Hoshiarpur, Arunesh Shakir from Mukerian and Sukhpal Singh Nannu from Ferozepur (Urban).

The party not fielding former state unit chief Kamal Sharma comes as a surprise. While it is being said that Sharma withdrew his candidature, it was expected that the party would offer him the Firozpur seat. Sources say that Nannu was adamant on contesting this seat and his being close to Sampla led to Sharma opting out of a potentially embarrassing situation.

By not announcing the candidature of one of the senior most leaders Manoranjan Kalia from Jalandhar (Central), the BJP has kept observers guessing.

The party has also not declared candidates on the four seats from where it had Cabinet ministers in the outgoing government. These are Madan Mohan Mittal from Anandpur Sahib, Chunni Lal Bhagat from Jalandhar (West), Anil Joshi from Amritsar (North), and Surjit Kumar Jyani from Fazilka. While Mittal and Bhagat are expected to be replaced as they are above 75 years of age, the other two are seen as members of Sampla's rival group.

The BJP contests 23 seats as an ally of the Akalis. In the last government it had 12 MLAs. It contests mostly in the urban areas where there is a sizable Hindu population. This time around, its candidates will be carrying the added burden of selling prime minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation policy to the electorate. A large section of the party has been clamouring for bargaining more seats from the Akalis and also swapping some of the seats from where its candidates have been contesting. But the top leadership has preferred maintaining a status quo.

The relations between the two allies have been not entirely cordial on the round level. There have been noises within the BJP to walk out of the alliance given the anti incumbency that prevails against the Akalis. The party cadre also feels that the party must go on its own if it wants to grow in the political landscape of Punjab.

First published: 12 January 2017, 19:44 IST