The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tasked Union finance minister Arun Jaitley with finalising its candidates for the Punjab polls. The list is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Jaitley, who unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Amritsar, wields considerable influence on local leaders in Punjab. The party feels with he being at the helm, the scope of any backlash from disgruntled ticket-seekers will be minimised.
The saffron party will be contesting from 23 seats, while its alliance partner, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has fielded its candidates from the remaining 94 seats.
About 10 days ago, Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla had sent a panel of probable candidates from these 23 constituencies. Some contenders had objected to it and asked the party’s top leadership to take the final call.
Sources say the party’s central leadership has built consensus on fielding sitting MLAs on some seats. These include ministers Anil Joshi (Amritsar North) and Surjeet Kumar Jyani (Fazilka) besides Sukhjeet Kaur Shahi (Dasuya), Ashwini Sharma (Pathankot), Seema Devi (Bhoa), Dinesh Babbu (Sujanpur) and Manoranjan Kalia (Jalandhar Central).
Former minister Arunesh Shakir, who lost the previous polls from Mukerian, will again be the party candidate from the constituency. Although questions are being raised on Tarun Chugh’s candidature from Amritsar Central, he being the party’s national secretary is likely to get the nod.
The party is still indecisive on who to field from Rajpura, where former MLA late Raj Khurana’s son Tarun has staked his claim. The party’s Sikh face, Jagdeep Singh Sodhi, has also been trying hard to get the ticket.
In Dinanagar, Abohar and Amritsar West segments, the party has not been able to find any strong candidate. From Amritsar East, where Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu was elected on the BJP ticket in the last polls, the party has not zeroed in on her alternative. A municipal councillor, Rajesh Honey, who also remained the party’s state youth wing president, is in the fray, but his candidature is still being debated.
From Abohar, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son-in-law Kunal has been demanding the ticket, but the party is being cautious, as his mother, Vijay Luxmi Bhado, fared poorly in the 2012 polls.
The state BJP under Sampla is not in favour of Phagwara MLA Som Parkash contesting the polls this time, accusing him of “indiscipline”. “How can a person who got police cases registered against his own party’s workers be made a candidate?” questions a BJP leader.
Rajinder Bhandari (Ludhiana West), KD Bhandari (Jalandhar North), Sampla’s adversary Tikshan Sood (Hoshiarpur) and Parveen Bansal (Ludhiana North) are also in the race to contest the polls. As former state unit president Kamal Sharma has given up his claim on Ferozepur seat, the party is still looking for alternatives.
Grand old men want ‘son-rise’
Senior leaders of the party, who have crossed the age of 75, want their sons or grandsons to be fielded in their place. From Ludhiana Central, former deputy speaker and minister Satpal Gosain is seeking ticket for his grandson. Ministers Madan Mohan Mittal (Anandpur Sahib) and Bhagat Chunni Lal Mittal (Jalandhar West) want the ticket for their sons.