Laying to rest speculation about Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) leader Gaganjit Singh Barnala's defection to the Congress, the Sanjha Morcha has declared his candidature from the Dhuri assembly constituency in Sangrur district.
Gaganjit, son of former Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala, figures in the first list of 41 candidates announced by morcha chairman and People's Party of Punjab (PPP) chief Manpreet Singh Badal outside Jallianwala Bagh here on Saturday.
The list includes 29 PPP candidates, five each of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM), and two of the SAD (Longowal).
As expected, Manpreet will contest from Gidderbaha, while his father, Gurdas Singh Badal, will take on his brother and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi. The list includes two women — Ranjit Kaur of the PPP from Budhlada (reserved) and Lovleen Kaur Chahal (CPI) from Sujjanpur.
Besides Gaganjit, the SAD (Longowal) candidate on the list is Baldev Singh Mann (Sangrur). Both will contest on the PPP election symbol, to be allotted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on January 2.
The PPP has fielded former senior advocate general of Punjab Sukhdeep Singh Bhinder from Bathinda (urban), while Abhey Singh Sandhu, nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, has been fielded from Nawanshahr.
Present on the occasion were CPI central executive committee member Dr Joginder Dayal and state secretariat member Harbhajan Singh, CPM state secretary Charan Singh Virdi and SAD (Longowal) Majha zone convener Pradeep Singh Walia.
Candidates take oath
Prior to releasing the list, Manpreet and some other candidates paid homage to the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs. An oath was administered to the candidates by Abhey Singh Sandhu. The candidates pledged to eradicate corruption, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, drug addiction and communalism.
"Our aim in politics will be to ensure the prosperity of Punjab and India. While putting the state and the nation on the road to progress and eradicating all evils, I will seek no returns from the nation," the oath said.
Talking to the media later, Manpreet said the list of the remaining candidates would be released on January 3.
Code of conduct
Respecting the sanctity of the Jallianwala Bagh and the model code of conduct, no slogans were raised and Manpreet refused to talk to the media on the premises. The candidates' list, too, was released outside the martyrs' complex.
After releasing the list, Manpreet, his supporters, wife Vinu Badal and mother-in-law Dr Shavinder Johl paid obeisance at Harmandar Sahib.
He stood in a long queue of pilgrims between Darshani Deori and the sanctum sanctorum and waited for almost an hour for his turn. In accordance with their party tradition, CPI and CPM leaders did not accompany Manpreet to Harmandar Sahib.
When asked, CPM state secretary Charan Singh Virdi said, "As per our party tradition and principles, we prefer not to pay obeisance at any religious place. We do not believe in god, it is against the principles laid down by Karl Marx."
When asked about his absence from the morcha's first list, stand-up Punjabi comedian and PPP leader Bhagwant Mann said, "All remaining seats are for me. I can contest from any of them."
Five CPI candidates figure in the Sanjha Morcha list: Amarjit Singh Ansal, Amritsar west; Baldev Singh, Amritsar east; Balwinder Singh, Majitha; Lovleen Kaur Chahal, Sujjanpur; Subash Kaire, Dinanagar (reserved).
The CPI separately released the names of six other nominees: Hardev Arshi, Mansa; Kashmir Singh, Nabha; Mohinder Singh Dhoorkot, Nihalsinghwala; Surjit Singh Sohi, Bathinda (rural); Charanjit Shanga, Guru-ka-Bagh; and Kushiya Singh, Bhadaur (reserved).
The CPI list was released by Dr Joginder Dayal and Harbhajan Singh.
The CPI will contesting from 18 seats, while the CPM from nine on their respective election symbols.
Raghunath Singh, Garhshankar; Vijay Mishra, Amritsar central; Davinderjit Dhillon, Patti; Gurdial Singh Dhar, Anandpur Sahib; and Parshotam Lal Bilga, Phillaur (SC).