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Rahul’s young North stars

All three were given a ticket on Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s insistence. Between them, they haven’t contested a single Assembly election, report Manish Tiwari & Hitender Rao.

india Updated: May 05, 2009 01:38 IST

Their names didn’t even exist in the list of probable candidates. When Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh sent the names of probables to party president Sonia Gandhi for the 13 parliamentary constituencies in Punjab, even he didn’t know the high command would prefer three young Turks to party heavyweights.

When the lists were announced, everyone was surprised to see the three names: former Punjab Youth Congress chief Vijay Inder Singla (36) from Sangrur, sitting state Youth Congress president Ravneet Singh Bittu (33) from Anandpur Sahib and Sukhwinder Singh Danny (32) from Faridkot.

All three were given a ticket on Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s insistence. Between them, they haven’t contested a single Assembly election.

Another leader handpicked by Rahul is Indian Youth Congress president Ashok Tanwar (33) contesting from Sirsa, Haryana.

Former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh said, “We had other candidates in mind for the three constituencies, but when their names were recommended by Rahul Gandhi, we readily accepted it. They seem to be doing well and I am confident they will be able to get us the seats.”

The contest on all seats is very keen.

Singla, son of former Congress MP late Sant Ram Singla, is up against Akali veteran and former Union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. After his father’s death, Singla was appointed chairman of the Punjab Energy Development Agency in the Capt Amarinder government, and then state youth Congress president. Just months later, he came in close contact of Rahul, who not only appreciated his performance in Punjab but also sent him to Gujarat for party work.

Bittu, grandson of former Punjab CM late Beant Singh, is a college dropout facing SAD strongman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, a MBBS. Just a year back, he was a nonentity. But after his election as Youth Congress chief, he came in touch with Rahul. “Rahulji has reposed faith in me, and I will not fail him,” Bittu said.

Faridkot Congress candidate Danny is the son of former excise and taxation minister Sardool Singh. A MBA holder from Regents Business School of London, he is challenging sitting SAD MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan. Political predictions apart, Danny too seems to have consolidated his position in the constituency.

Tanwar, another Rahul confidant, is pitted against INLD’s Sita Ram in Sirsa. Tanwar is a Dalit and married to the daughter of Delhi Congress leader late Lalit Maken.

What does Tanwar think of Rahul? “He’s my general and I’m his foot soldier.”

Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda had Tanwar’s proximity in mind when he spoke at a rally attended by Rahul in Sirsa on May 1: “Ashok Tanwar has lot of access in Delhi. Rarely one gets a candidate who has access to the Central as well as the state government. Whatever he wants for Sirsa, he will get done.”

With all party leaders hailing Rahul’s ‘right choice’, the fight in the four constituencies is set to be as much a test for him as for ‘his men’.