Former Congress minister Ishar Singh Meharban, who had lost the 2012 assembly elections from Jagraon segment by just 206 votes, is set to join the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Sunday along with Rajbir Singh Padiala, it is learnt.
SAD chief and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is scheduled to hold a press conference on Sunday where Meharban and Padiala will formally come under the SAD’s wings, sources in the SAD as well as the Congress said.
Despite repeated attempts, Meharban was not available for comment. He also did not respond to text messages sent on his cell phone.
Meharban, 66, had polled 52,825 votes in the assembly elections from Jagraon, which is part of the Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat, where a multi-cornered high-stakes battle is on the cards in the April 30 elections.
This poaching of a Congress leader by Sukhbir comes close on the heels of Talwandi Sabo Congress MLA Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu resigning from the Vidhan Sabha and joining the SAD. Former Congress minister Malkit Singh Birmi (Ludhiana) had also switched over to the SAD along with Sidhu.
Recently, Meharban had resigned from the post of executive member of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee in protest against the appointment of his political rival, Mayor Singh Behni, as the general secretary.
Padiala, a traditional Akali leader, had joined the Congress in 2009 and is now set to rejoin the SAD. He has pockets of influence in Kharar assembly segment of Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat.
At the core of engineering these defections by Sukhbir is his strategy of keeping Congress in ‘shock and awe’.
Meharban’s switchover could give a psychological advantage to the SAD over the Congress from the Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat. The SAD is apparently on the back foot as noted lawyer HS Phoolka, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate, and SAD rebel Simarjit Singh Bains are also in the fray. The Bains brothers — Simarjit and Balwinder — had fought the 2012 assembly elections as Independents after being denied the ticket by the SAD and emerged victorious by impressive margins.