The People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), less than a year old, is eyeing a key role in government formation in case the January 30 elections throw up a hung assembly.
The party led by Manpreet Singh Badal, a rebel from the ruling Badal clan, has made it a triangular contest on at least 10 seats.
The 1997, 2002 and 2007 assembly elections witnessed a straight contest between the Akali-BJP combine and the Congress, but things are a bit different this time.
The PPP’s tie-up with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) and the Left parties to form the Sanjha Morcha has made it a force to reckon with.
The party’s electoral hopes rest on the agrarian Malwa region, particularly Lambi, the constituency represented by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and Gidderbaha, from where Manpreet has been elected MLA four times.
From Lambi, the CM is facing his brother, PPP candidate Gurdas Singh Badal, as well as his cousin, veteran Congressman Mahesh Inder Singh Badal. Mahesh Inder had lost by just 8,000 votes to the chief minister in the 2007 polls.
In Gidderbaha, Manpreet is taking on former Congress leader Sant Singh Brar, who defected to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) after being promised the ticket by Parkash Singh Badal. The Congress has fielded Amarinder Singh Warring, a first-timer as far as the assembly polls are concerned.
The other constituencies where the PPP could be a handful for the Congress as well as the SAD are Maur, Khanna, Budhlada, Bathinda (Urban), Kotkapura, Fatehgarh Sahib, Amloh, Dakha, Kharar, Mohali and Jaito (SC).
Manpreet is also contesting from the Maur seat in Bathinda district. His rivals are Akali minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon and sitting Congress MLA from Budhlada Mangat Rai Bansal.
The PPP suffered a major jolt when two of its top leaders — Kushaldeep Dhillon and Jagbir Brar — joined the Congress last month (Brar even managed to get the Congress ticket from the Jalandhar cantonment seat). However, the party has been bolstered by the entry of SAD rebels such as former minister Raghbir Singh from Kapurthala and Sirhind MLA Didar Singh Bhatti, who will contest from the Fatehgarh Sahib seat.
Former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh has returned to the PPP, making things hard for Balwant Singh Ramoowalia (SAD) and Balbir Singh Sidhu (Congress) from the Mohali seat. Amarjit Kaur, sarpanch of Pangrain village, poses a challenge to Akali veteran Gurdev Singh Badal from the Jaito (SC) constituency.
Among the Congress rebels, the PPP is banking on former minister Harnek Singh Gharuan from Kharar and Gobindgarh councillor Jagmeet Singh Sahota (Amloh). Gharuan’s rivals are former Congress minister Jagmohan Singh Kang and the SAD’s Ujagar Singh Badali. Sahota’s main opponent is Jagdeep Singh Cheema of the SAD.
In Khanna, PPP candidate Gurpreet Singh Bhatti is pitted against the SAD’s Ranjit Singh Talwandi and the Congress’ Gurkirat Singh, son of late chief minister Beant Singh.
Other PPP hopefuls include Sukhdeep Singh Bhinder (Bathinda), Pardeep Singh Dhaliwal (Kotkapura), who resigned as a block samiti chairman to join the party, Ranjit Kaur (Budhlada-SC) and Daljit Singh Sadarpura (Dakha).
However, many PPP candidates are likely to suffer forfeiture of their security deposits.