With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) retaining sitting member of Parliament (MP) Harsimrat Kaur Badal as the party candidate from Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, the onus is on the Congress to put up a formidable nominee.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa has already declared that he wants to contain the Badals in the region. Notwithstanding Bajwa’s suggestion that former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh would be the ‘strongest’ party candidate from Bathinda, ex-minister Surinder Singla and former MLA Harminder Singh Jassi are the top contenders for the Congress ticket. Jassi is largely relying on the rural as well as Dera Sacha Sauda vote bank, while Singla would have the upper hand if the party decides to give the ticket from the Hindu quota.
However, Bajwa’s ‘inclination’ towards the Sanjha Morcha for an alliance could create hurdles in the candidature of Jassi and Singla.
Considering the hype over his possible poll battle against Harsimrat, People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Singh Badal could find it hard to save face in case he decides not to contest from Bathinda.
Harsimrat would be obliged if the PPP and the Congress do not forge any alliance, especially when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already announced to contest on all 13 seats in the state and can create further division in the already split vote bank of opposition parties from the Bathinda seat.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Harsimrat had bagged more votes than the total garnered by her four nearest rivals, including Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh. The SAD had won six of the nine assembly segments under Bathinda Lok Sabha seat in the 2012 elections. However, the ruling party had got less votes (4.9 lakh) than the Congress (4.57 lakh) and the Sanjha Morcha (1.52 lakh) put together. The Akalis would have lost all nine assembly seats, except Lambi, had there been a tie-up between the Congress and the PPP.
Under the circumstances, the Congress and PPP can consider reaching a consensus over Manpreet’s candidature. Left parties have also indicated that they can ally with the Congress at the state level.