Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Pradesh Congress Committee Chief SS Dullo, Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Pritam Singh Bhinder, former Delhi Police Commissioner, are in the first list of 98 candidates released by the Congress on Wednesday for the February 21 elections to the 117-member Assembly in Punjab.
Of the remaining 19 seats, the party has not announced its candidate for Bhatinda and Amritsar West assembly segments which are represented by senior leader SS Singhla and OP Soni. Both these leaders are aspirants for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat that will also go to polls on the same day.
All the 13 ministers of the Amarinder cabinet have been given tickets, raising speculation that tackling rebellion in the ranks may be more difficult than fighting anti-incumbency. Likewise, sitting legislators have been renominated, barring exceptions like Arvind Khanna whose name figured in the Iraqi food-for-oil controversy. Khanna had represented Sangrur.
The CM will contest from Patiala town, Dullo from Khanna (SC) which used to be represented by his wife earlier, Bhattal from Lehra and Bhinder from Gurdaspur which is part of the parliamentary seat his late wife Sukhhans Kaur represented before losing it to BJP's Vinod Khanna. He would be a strong candidate for a place in the cabinet if the Congress returns to power.
Former chief minister Beant Singh's son and daughter — Tej Prakash Singh (Payal) and Gurkanwal Kaur (Jullunder Cantt) — have been accommodated in the list. So have the three Akali Dal rebels who joined the Congress on Monday — Charanjit Singh Channi (Hoshiarpur), Makhan Singh (Pakka Kalan-SC) and Nirmal Singh (Shutrana-SC). Speaker Kewal Krishen has opted out of the race in Mukerian because of old age, handing over the baton to his son Rajnish Kumar. Kewal Singh Dhillon, the man who brought Pepsi to Punjab, will contest from Barnala.
The Congress has turned to an NRI to try and wrest Qila Raipur that the party has never won till now. Jasbir Singh Khangura gave up his British citizenship to test his electoral strength in the seat that his mother had contested on last time. Besides him, some of the other first timers in the list include
Besides Khangura. The other first timers in the list include Naresh Kataria (Zira), Col Babu Ram (Nihal Singh Wala-SC) and Pt Balmukant Sharma (Firozepur).