With the Congress “resurrecting” former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal by allotting him the Chandigarh seat, union minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari has no option but to contest from Ludhiana. Tewari, who was eying the Chandigarh seat, had in a strongly-worded statement targeted Bansal saying, “Those who face charges of corruption should voluntarily step aside till the controversies are laid to rest.” Tewari’s outburst was a lastditch attempt to block Bansal’s name, after it was almost cleared for the Chandigarh seat.
According to Congress sources, at the Central Election Committee meeting of Congress on March 8 the name of Tewari too was finalised for Ludhiana along with Preneet Kaur from Patiala, Vijay Inder Singla from Sangrur, Ravneet Bittu from Anandpur Sahib and Harminder Gill from Khadoor Sahib. But Tewari wanted to wait till Bansal’s name was finally out and had expressed his desire to opt out of Ludhiana citing infighting in the district Congress unit, health and financial clout of the Akali candidate as the reasons.
However, his interview this week to a private news channel, wherein he aired his opinion over fielding “tainted” candidates, has not gone down well with the high command and was seen as a direct attempt to sabotage Bansal’s prospects. In a counter-attack, some Congress leaders made a strong case that all winning MPs recontest, making Tewari’s arguments of not contesting Ludhiana untenable.
A reluctant Te wari on Wednesday called up his many detractors in Ludhiana Congress to mend fences, including former Ludhiana district presidents Jagmohan Shar ma and KK Bawa, seeking their blessings and asked block presidents to extend their support to him. Not only is Tewari’s graph down since his huge win during the 2009 elections, but he also faces an intensely divided Congress.
Unlike his Akali opponent Gurcharan Singh Ghalib in 2009, he now faces one of Akali Dal’s moneybags, Manpreet Ayali, whose financial clout helped him clinch the Dakha seat in the 2012 assembly polls. AAP has fielded lawyer HS Phoolka and Independent MLA Simaranjit Bains has also thrown in his hat in the ring, making Ludhiana a four-cornered contest.