People's Party of Punjab (PPP) is likely to face a major setback in Doaba as its senior leader from Kapurthala, Raghubir Singh, has decided to rejoin Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Denied a ticket by SAD in the assembly elections earlier this year, Raghubir, a former Punjab transport
minister, tried his luck from Kapurthala constituency on a PPP ticket, but lost.
"If everything goes well, the formal announcement in this regard might be made in a few days," said a close associate of Raghuvir.
Raghubir had won the assembly elections from Kapurthala in 1997 and was made transport minister by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Thereafter, he lost to Congress candidate Rana Gurjit Singh, in 2002 and 2007 and to his sister-in-law Sukhjinder Kaur Rana in 2004 (bypoll).
Much before the 2012 elections, a section of SAD workers reportedly pressurised the party leadership for Raghuvir's ouster due to his consecutive defeats and managed to give the Kapurthala ticket to the then Adampur MLA Sarabjeet Makkar, who, however, lost to Rana Gurjit by a margin of 14, 471 votes - bigger than Raghuvir's.
In July 2011, when Makkar started operating in Kapurthala as the official party candidate, Raghubir, who was the SAD district president, switched loyalty, along with other functionaries, towards Manpreet Singh Badal, the PPP chief. However, many of them returned to the SAD fold before the election after the "damage control" measures taken by that party.
After Makkar's defeat this year, many within SAD demanded Raghubir's return. Former cabinet minister Bibi Upinderjit Kaur and former MP Naresh Gujral had also pressed for Raghuvir's return, sources said. "Party may confer him a big responsibility to boost its chances in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections," added sources.
Raghubir confirmed the move to SAD, but kept mum over the date of announcement. "It will be too early to say anything till I get the formal intimation and invitation from the SAD high command," he said.
Meanwhile, Kapurthala SAD in-charge Sarabjeet Makkar said the speculation of Raghuvir's return to the party was baseless. "I had discussions with the party president in this regard and he has said there was no chance of Raghuvir's return," he said. "We will not welcome the re-entry of a party detractor."