With his once-estranged elder brother and tainted former minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh by his side during the poll campaign, Congress candidate from Jalandhar parliamentary segment Chaudhary Santokh Singh is caught in a catch-22 situation since he is finding it difficult to bring the party flock together.
Jagjit, a former Punjab local bodies minister who recently reconciled with Santokh after they had a bitter relationship, is helping his young brother in his election campaign, which has become a major cause of concern for the Santokh group.
Since the former local bodies minister does not enjoy a healthy equation with many senior party leaders in Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency, the Santokh group wanted to keep him at an arm’s length during electioneering in the constituency.
Jagjit is involved in many controversies, including serious charges of corruption levelled against him in the infamous Ludhiana City Centre scam case.
Chaudhary, who was local bodies minister at that time, is also prime accused in a case of corruption worth crores along with Captain Amarinder Singh, the then chief minister. The case is pending in court.
A five-time MLA and a tall party leader from dominant Schedule Caste community, Jagjit has always been accused by the party’s second-rung leadership from Doaba of not letting any other leader, including his own brother Santokh, gain stature in the party.
He also lost last two elections from the Kartarpur assembly segment. Even as Santokh has a clean image and he shares a good rapport with senior leaders in the parliamentary segment, it will be an uphill task for him to come out of the shadows of Jagit.
Jagjit is not on good terms with local leaders, including the sitting MP from Jalandhar Mohinder Singh Kaypee, who has now been shifted to Hoshiarpur, former minister Avtar Henry and Gurwinder Atwal, two-time former MLA from Nurmahal.
Atwal’s assembly segment Nurmahal was abolished after delimitation before 2012 assembly polls. But when he demanded assembly ticket from the nearby Nakodar assembly segment, Jagjit and Santokh played a key role in allotting the ticket to Amarjit Singh Samra.
Atwal, who represented Nur mahal in 1992 and 2002 elections, has a strong say in the region and his estranged ties with the Chaudhary brothers can cost the party dear.
“For the party, Chaudhary brothers have always been a top priority— be it the assembly elections or the parliamentary ones. But people know their real face. But now since the party has made Santokh the nominee, I will definitely give a thought to support him,” Atwal said while speaking to HT.
There are many in the party who are avowed opponents of Jagjit, including Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) secretary Ram Lal Jassi.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Captain Amarinder also held a closed-door meeting with local leaders in Jalandhar while he was on his way to Amritsar. He exhorted the local leaders to work for Santokh in the constituency.