Before it takes on its political rivals, the Congress was able to close the internal wrangling for tickets, a day before filing of nominations ends in Punjab. The name of former union minister and party spokesman Manish Tewari did not figure in the final list of three released by the party on Tuesday morning.
Tewari, the former Ludhiana MP, lost out to sitting Congress MP Ravneet Bittu who had virtually vetoed his entry into the list from the Ludhiana East seat. An ambitious Bittu, grandson of late CM Beant Singh and trusted lieutenant of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, is taking on Shiromani Akali Dal president and Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal from Jalalabad. Rahul has been grooming Young Turks such as Bittu and Indian Youth Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring as the second-rung leaders in Punjab.
The Bittu camp was viewing Tewari’s bid to bag a nomination from Ludhiana as a way to regain a foothold in the area and had steadfastly opposed the union minister’s candidature in the screening committee and central election meetings of the party saying he had “fled” from the race in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his choice of candidates from Ludhiana’s 14 assembly seats was “responsible for the party’s poor show” in 2012 state polls.
According to party sources, Bittu had set the condition of Tewari not being nominated for taking on Sukhbir from Jalalabad.
As his chances grew grim. Tewari had lashed out at his detractors in recent interviews saying some people within the party were feeling “insecure” by his comeback. Though Tewari had the backing of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, it is the will of Bittu that finally prevailed and his nominee, Sanjay Talwar, was named as the Ludhiana East candidate. In Monday’s list, Bittu has was also able to secure a nomination for family confidant Malkit Singh Dakha from Jagraon reserved seat forcing the Congress to drop Valmiki candidate, Geja Ram, who had Amarinder’s support.
In Amritsar South seat, however, Amarinder was able to secure the nomination of Akali rebel Inderbir Bolaria, whose candidature was being opposed by some screening committee members such as state affairs in-charge Asha Kumari who was pushing for hotelier Jasbir Dimpa’s name. Once a confidant of Sukhbir’s brother-in-law and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, Bolaria had Majithia have turned sworn enemies and Amarinder had described him as a “victim of Badal vendetta politics”, saying they had tried to “ruin” his business.
For Mansa, the party had a choice between the kin Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, former media adviser of Amarinder when he was CM, and former minister Mangat Rai Bansal, who has been convicted in a corruption case. Bansal’s wife, Manju Bansal, was finally named as the candidate to ensure the party fields at least 10 women and a Hindu face for the seat dominated by the Bania community.