The Congress strategy to field its tallest leaders for the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab has more in store. After pitting former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh against senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley in Amritsar and re-fielding sitting Gurdaspur MP and state unit president Partap Singh Bajwa despite their reluctance, the party has reportedly asked its legislature party leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar to be battleready from Ferozepur.
Another former CM and sitting MLA from Lehragaga in Sangrur, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, has been called to Delhi by the party high command. She confirmed it, but said nothing further. Sources told HT that despite her refusal she is being pressed to contest from Sangrur, where the party’s sitting MP, Vijay Inder Singla, is finding it tough to placate disgruntled leaders like Kewal Dhillon, Harchand Kaur and Arvind Khanna, considered close to the Amarinder camp.
Jakhar, 60, is the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha and a three-time MLA from Abohar, which is in the Ferozepur LS segment. Son of veteran Congressman Balram Jakhar, Sunil had lost the LS election from Ferozepur in 1996 to Mohan Singh Fallianwala of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which was then backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). He came back into the reckoning after winning the 2002 assembly poll, and was eventually elected the leader of opposition after completing a hat-trick in 2012. He said, “It will be a big honour for me in case the party chooses me to contest from Ferozepur, though I have not applied for the ticket. So far, there is no official confirmation.”
Other Congress leaders hoping for the Ferozepur ticket were MLAs Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi and Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, former MLAs Bhai Harnirpal Singh Kuku and Hans Raj Josan, and former state Youth Congress chief Raminder Awla.
The ticket to Jakhar would certainly not go down well with veteran Jagmeet Brar, who had lost the 2009 LS poll from the segment to the SAD’s Sher Singh Ghubaya. Jakhar had reportedly wanted the LS ticket in 2009, too, but was denied.
On the party’s strategy to field big leaders to rejuvenate the rank and file, Jakhar said, “I am not among the tall leaders in the state. There are many others who are senior to me. But I take responsibility whenever entrusted with it.” His clean image and local connect could prove key, besides anti-incumbency against the state’s SAD-BJP regime and Ghubaya.
It is further learnt that at Faridkot the party is considering MLA Joginder Singh Panjgrain, while four-time MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot is in line for the ticket from Fatehgarh Sahib, where retired bureaucrat Dr Amar Singh is also hoping to get the party’s nod.