Former union minister Preneet Kaur, who lost the Lok Sabha election recently, will be the Congress candidate for bypoll to the Patiala (urban) assembly seat, it is learnt. The seat fell vacant after her husband Capt Amarinder Singh, the sitting MLA, quit the assembly after entering the Lok Sabha from Amritsar.
Preneet, ‘maharani’ of the erstwhile Patiala royal family, remained MP thrice from Patiala Lok Sabha seat before losing this time to the Aam Aadmi Party’s Dr Dharamvira Gandhi.
On Monday, Preneet, who has never contested an assembly poll, met All-India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi, who asked her to start her campaign, sources said. The official announcement will come along with that of the candidate for Talwandi Sabo, which also witnesses bypoll on August 21. Sources said Preneet would return from Delhi and join party workers at Patiala during the Congress protest against the state government on Wednesday.
Despite losing the LS poll, Preneet had led from the Patiala assembly segment by over 7,000 votes. However, at this prestigious assembly seat too, the Congress vote share had nosedived by almost 30% in comparison with the 2012 Vidhan Sabha polls. The AAP, which won all of its four seats out of the 13 LS seats in Punjab, ate into the Congress vote significantly, observers said.
As such, the decision on the candidate had been left to Amarinder and the royal family by Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa. Sources said that concerned over the surge of the AAP and anticipating a tough fight, Amarinder, deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, decided to field his wife. He apparently did not want to field his son, Raninder Singh, as the latter has already lost two elections — from the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and the Samana assembly segment in 2012.
Preneet and their daughter Jai Inder Kaur used to nurture Patiala assembly seat for Amarinder, who is busy campaigning across the state in all elections held since 1998. Preneet could not be contacted for comment, but her close aide confirmed she was gearing up for the contest.