This reserved Lok Sabha constituency is set to witness a close contest between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), with the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also in the fray. The ruling SAD has fielded a first-timer, realtor-turned-politician Kulwant Singh, against Congress MLA from Nabha Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, a Baazigar community leader.
The AAP nominee is former ambassador to Norway and former Bathinda MP Harinder Singh Khalsa.
In a dramatic turn of events, sitting MP Sukhdev Singh Libra, a Ramdassia Sikh, had recently rejoined the SAD after being denied the ticket by the Congress.
Libra had won the Fatehgarh Sahib seat on the Congress ticket in the 2009 polls. Earlier, he had won on the SAD ticket in 2004.
The SAD, which had been harping on the development plank, has suddenly changed track and is playing the caste card to garner almost 22% votes of Ramdassia community in this constituency.
Though exact figures are not available, Ramdassia Sikhs account for almost 3 lakh votes, while the Baazigar community has around 50,000 votes.
Poll experts say that Dharamsot has an edge over Kulwant as he has grassroots-level networking in some assembly seats under the constituency, while the latter is regarded as an outsider. The SAD’s decision to give the ticket to Kulwant has exposed the rift in the party’s local unit.
Dharamsot is also grappling with factionalism as former Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo is not supporting his candidature. What’s worse, Libra has not only rejoined the SAD but is also accusing the Congress of betraying the Ramdassia community by denying him the ticket.
Both Kulwant and Dharamsot are contesting the elections on development-related issues. They have been holding door to door canvassing as well as ‘nukkar’ rallies.
The good response received by the AAP in urban areas, especially during party convener Arvind Kejriwal’s road show, can prove to be a crucial factor.