Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has turned down separate requests by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Pradesh Congress Committee chief SS Dullo to contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. But the final decision lies with him and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“He said ‘no’ to my request when I broached the subject a fortnight ago,’’ Amarinder said. Dullo too got a similar response when he called on the PM last week. “Dr Sahib has categorically stated that neither he nor any of his family members will contest the polls,’’ he said.
Amarinder, however, added: “We and the whole of Punjab would have welcomed the PM had he agreed to be in the fray. He would no doubt have registered a sweeping victory in the by-election. His participation would also have given a big boost to the Congress winning the Assembly election.’’
But the last, perhaps, has not been heard on the issue, which the High Command has been silent and the AICC circumspect about. With the last date of filing nominations for the by-poll on January 25, whether the PM will contest or not is a question that is likely to come up again. Amarinder, on his part, termed the delay in announcing the party’s nominee for Amritsar — the seat for which fell vacant after Navjyot Singh Sidhu resigned — as “procedural.”
AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi maintained that both Houses are equal as far as the PM is concerned. "Just because he has been campaigning in Punjab does not mean he will contest — or not contest,’’ Singhvi said.
Singh’s Rajya Sabha term from Assam comes to an end in June 2007. While he would have no difficulty getting re-nominated, Congressmen in Punjab believe that had the PM chosen to contest from Amritsar, the party’s prospects in the February 21 assembly elections would have been significantly furthered.