The Congress on Friday took the lead by naming four-time Lok Sabha parliamentarian Pawan Kumar Bansal as its candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat, leaving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the only party which is yet to decide on a candidate for the city.
Bansal, whose tenure as railway minister was marred by the railgate scam in May 2013, will contest the seat for the seventh time. Though no official announcement has been made by the Congress, its Chandigarh unit president, BB Bahl, who is a part of the Congress' central election panel and also attended the meeting in which Bansal's name was cleared, confirmed the decision. "He is the only competent person in Congress and will give a tough fight to its (Congress') opponents," he said.
However, Bansal still awaits a strong opponent. The BJP's central election committee will meet in New Delhi on March 13 and is expected to decide its candidate for Chandigarh, which goes to polls on April 10. Bansal's bete noire BJP leader Satya Pal Jain, party's Chandigarh chief Sanjay Tandon, and former union minister Harmohan Dhawan are among the frontrunners for the party ticket.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already named Savita Bhatti, widow of comedian Jaspal Bhatti, as its candidate. Jannat Jahan, whose husband Hafiz Anwar-ul-Haq contested in 2009 and got 11,549 votes, is the Bahujan Samaj Party's nominee.
The MP is also believed to have got the indication of his candidature being cleared about two weeks ago, which reflects in him stepping up campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls in the past few days. Making his presence felt in the city, Bansal has gone into overdrive and has been holding public meetings, visiting houses and addressing party workers.
On the railgate scam, Bahl said Bansal had no role in it and people, in fact, sympathised with him. "In the past two decades, he has done so much for Chandigarh and people of city regard him for this. As far as railgate is concerned, CBI has already cleared that," he said.
Bansal's candidature reflects Cong's hypocricy
Reacting to Bansal's candidature, Chandigarh BJP chief Sanjay Tandon said the Congress only talked of controlling corruption and had been systematically accommodating people who had been forced to resign on account of corruption charges. "It exposes the hypocrisy of congress," he said.