Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal has tried to curb factionalism in the party’s local unit by preferring real-estate baron Kulwant Singh over Akali leaders, but the party candidate from Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) constituency would find it tough to regain the ground lost ever since sitting MP Sukhdev Singh Libra switched over to the Congress.
Kulwant, who remained president of the Mohali municipal committee from 2001 to 2005, and was once a blue-eyed boy of the Congress, has been chosen ahead of senior Akali leader and assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and the latter’s son, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal.
Kulwant’s real-estate business flourished during the tenure of then urban development minister Raghunath Sahai Puri and local bodies minister Ch Jagjit Singh. Kulwant, through Puri, even managed to tweak Mohali’s master plan in 2004, when the Congress was in power in Punjab.
After the Akali-BJP alliance took charge in 2007, he switched loyalties and now enjoys close proximity with Sukhbir.
Despite losing to Libra in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the senior Atwal had been eyeing the SAD ticket.
Anticipating a Narendra Modi wave, he had been keen to contest so that in case the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed the government, he could have extracted his pound of flesh by virtue of being a senior Dalit leader. To avoid such a scenario, the SAD not only denied the ticket to him but also to his son.
Moreover, the presence of factions led by Akali leaders Didar Singh Bhatti and Prem Singh Chandumajra in Fatehgarh Sahib, and the opposition faced by the Atwals from many Akalis in Ludhiana district, forced the party to go for a parachute candidate.
Atwal has formidable presence in Ludhiana district, which has Khanna, Samrala, Sahnewal, Raikot and Payal assembly seats under Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha seat.
Kulwant, a stranger to the constituency, is not connected with the SAD leadership of Ludhiana and Fatehgarh Sahib,
“Kulwant is a parachute candidate. People won’t accept him. He will meet the fate of another outsider, Prem Singh Chandumajra,” said Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib, Kuljit Singh Nagra, who had defeated Chandumajra in the 2012 assembly elections.
Paramjit Singh Kainth, president, National Scheduled Castes Alliance, said Kulwant had not done any work for the SC community. “He is a rich man who moves in a Mercedes. How he can understand problems of SC people? He got the ticket only through the power of money,” he said.