With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) having declared their candidates, the stage is set for Talwandi Sabo byelection, which will now witness a contest between two traditional political rivals Harminder Singh Jassi of Congress and Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu of SAD and a new entrant in politics Balkar Singh Sidhu of AAP. The byelection is scheduled to be held on August 21.
Balkar Sidhu had become politically active during the recently-held parliamentary elections and had campaigned for AAP candidates in Punjab. In these elections, AAP had managed to secure about 16,000 votes from the Talwandi Sabo segment under Bathinda parliamentary constituency.
The segment has remained a battlefield for both Jeet Mohinder and Jassi for a long time. Both have locked horns in the electoral battle from the constituency in the past and defeated each other once.
Jassi was elected MLA from the constituency in 1992. In the 1997 assembly polls, he defeated Jeet Mohinder, who had contested as a SAD candidate by a margin of 3,193 votes. In the 2002 assembly polls, after having been denied SAD ticket, Jeet Mohinder had contested as an independent and defeated Jassi, a Congress candidate, by a thin margin of 237 votes.
However, with the Congress forming the state government in 2002, Jeet Mohinder joined the Congress, which made Jassi to shift his base to Bathinda (urban) assembly segment.
In the 2007 assembly polls, Jassi got elected from Bathinda (urban), whereas Sidhu was elected as Congress MLA from Talwadni Sabo and both arch rivals became part of the same party. In the 2012 assembly polls, Sidhu again was elected Congress MLA from Talwandi Sabo while Jassi lost to SAD candidate, now chief parliamentary secretary, Sarup Chand Singla from Bathinda (urban).
However, Jassi’s candidature has come as a surprise for many as he was lobbying mainly to get ticket for his son Sanpreet Singh and not for himself. Bathinda (urban) assembly seat was being seen as a safe one for Jassi for the 2017 assembly polls because of poor performance of the ruling SAD here in the parliamentary elections.
With factionalism gripping both SAD and Congress and some AAP workers, too, having demanded party ticket to a local leader during the visit of party convener Arvind Kejriwal at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib on Saturday, keeping the flocks together will be a daunting task for the three parties.
As many as nine councillors of SAD and one of BJP in Talwandi Sabo nagar panchayat have demanded a special meeting of the house to express distrust against the president.