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Manpreet Randhawa, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, January 19, 2013
A committee constituted by the Punjab Congress to shortlist candidates for the February 23 Moga assembly byelection has zeroed in on former minister Darshan Singh Brar and Vijay Kumar Sathi.
The seat fell vacant after two-time Congress MLA Joginderpal Jain switched over to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) last month.

The Congress committee headed by Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh and including senior leaders Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Chiranji Lal Garg, Rana Kaypee Singh, Ajaib Singh Bhatti and OP Soni met here on Friday at Chandigarh and held an interaction with eight ticket aspirants for the byelection.

Besides Brar and Sathi, the panel members met Dr Malti Thapar, Jagroop Singh Takhtupura, Navdeep Singh Sangha, Manjit Singh Mann, Vijay Bansal and Dr Harjot Singh Kamal.

Though Soni could not make it to the meeting, the members were nearly unanimous on the names of Sathi and Brar. Sathi had lost to former Akali minister Tota Singh in the 1997 and 2002 assembly elections from Moga.

Sources said the committee would send a panel of three candidates to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee(PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh, who would take the final call after consultations with other senior party leaders.

Rana Gurjit refused to divulge details of what transpired at the meeting, but confirmed that he would send a panel of three candidates to the PPCC chief soon.

Sources said the committee took into account three major factors before shortlisting the candidates: one, a clean track record, considering the fact that SAD candidate Jain is facing criminal cases; two, sway over voters of Moga assembly segment, which largely includes Hindus, especially those residing in the city; and three, the candidate's resources to counter the Akalis' "muscle and money power".

In the 2009 parliamentary polls, Congress nominee Sukhwinder Singh Danny had lost to Akali candidate Paramjit Kaur Gulshan from the Faridkot Lok Sabha seat. He had trailed in all assembly segments expect Moga, where he had led by nearly 11,000 votes over his rival.

The committee unanimously observed, "The Congress can turn the tables on the Akalis in the Moga byelection, only if the senior party leadership takes the contest more seriously. People are fed up with the poor law and order situation in Punjab. An aggressive, united Congress can cash in on this public sentiment."