The Moga bypoll slated for February 23 is all set to witness a multi-cornered contest with key political opponents ruling SAD and Congress gearing up to take on each other and Sanjha Morcha's candidate likely to play a game changer.
After the filing of nomination papers, both by Congress nominee Vijay Kumar Sathi and SAD-BJP alliance candidate and turncoat Joginderpal Jain on Saturday, the focus of key political parties has shifted to Moga.
All senior leaders of Congress, including Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh, CLP leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar and most of the MLAs, shifted their headquarters at Moga. Similarly all senior SAD-BJP leaders also started arriving here, bringing life to the nondescript district of the state.
SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and other ministers, including Bikram Singh Majithia and Madan Mohan Mittal would
be reaching here on Monday to vigorously campaign for Jain.
After sweeping the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections, Sukhbir had given a call to party rank and file to shift its entire focus to Moga assembly seat.
The contest in this election would be triangular as the third nominee Ravinder Singh Dhaliwal, a candidate of Sanjha Morcha, will be filing his nomination papers tomorrow.
However, it looks to be a direct fight between Sathi and Jain, who, after resigning from the Congress, had joined the Shiromani Akali Dal on December 26. This step of Jain necessitated the bypoll.
Twice Congress MLA Jain is now seeking re-election on SAD ticket.
The Sanjha Morcha, a conglomerate of Peoples Party of Punjab and Left parties, during the last Assembly elections, polled about 10,000 votes.
PPP supremo Manpreet Singh Badal, who had rejected the Congress appeal to him to withdraw his candidate in favour of the Congress, is prepared to make deep inroads into popular vote banks of both SAD and Congress, political observers said.
Pitted again Jain, Sathi, a Hindu-Sikh face of the Congress, had won from the Baghapurana assembly seat in the 1992 elections on the Janta Dal ticket, defeating Congress stalwart Gurcharan Singh Nihalsingh Wala with a margin of only 8 votes, official sources said here.
Later, Sathi unsuccessfully contested from Moga seat thrice, including twice as independent.
Sathi's nomination has left supporters of other likely contenders, including Punjab Congress Mahila chief Malti Thapar and former Congress minister Darshan Singh Brar, unhappy, making things difficult for the Congress.
Jain, too, is facing difficulty in taking along the SAD-BJP leaders as just a year ago he had defeated the alliance candidate, former DGP Paramdeep Singh Gill, party's insiders claim.
In 1997 and 2002 polls, Akali Dal veteran leader Tota Singh had won the Moga seat, while Jain wrested it for the Congress in 2007 and 2012.
Meanwhile, Amrinder too had failed to convince Manpreet to withdraw his candidate in favour of the Congress to take on Jain.
On Saturday, when Jain filed his nomination papers, no senior SAD leaders were present, except Tota Singh and Nidharak Singh Brar.
Besides, none of the supporters of former DGP P S Gill and he himself turned up during the nomination filing by Jain.
Of the 1.75 lakh voters in Moga assembly constituency, at least 35 per cent are Hindus and more than 25 per cent of the electorate belongs to Dalits and backward classes. Jat Sikhs constitute about 32-35 per cent of the total electorate, election office spokesman said here.