Embarrassed by the drug allegations against Phillaur legislator Avinash Chander and his family, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is hunting for a replacement candidate for the 2017 assembly elections.
Fresh Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons to his wife and brother in the money-laundering case related to the multi-crore-rupee Jagdish Bhola synthetic drug racket have compounded the troubles of chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Chander. “In the past four years, he put the party in an awkward position repeatedly when his close aides were named in cases of illegal-sand mining and drug trade. Also, he is hardly visible in the constituency, and public has to go more than 50 kilometres to his palace-like home in Jalandhar’s posh Baradari area,” said a senior Akali leader on the condition of anonymity.
When the post of Phillaur deputy superintendent of police remained vacant for between August and December 2015, Chander’s popularity in the state administration touched a new low. “At least three officers did not join at Phillaur, citing undue interference by the local MLA. The present DSP, Sarabjit Rai, posted there second time in five years, is related to the CPS,” a senior police officer from Jalandhar said on the condition of anonymity.
During a state-level function to unveil the foundation stone of the Ravidas memorial at Khuralgarh village of Hoshiapur district on April 3, Avinash was seated in the second row, while every other CPS and MLA of the Doaba region was in the first row with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Eyeing the Phillaur ticket, former minister (now Kartarpur MLA) Sarwan Singh Phillaur and Banga’s ex-legislator Mohan Lal Banga have become active in the constituency. Phillaur represented this seat before he was moved to Kartarpur in 2012. Banga, resigned as member of Punjab Public Service Commission last October in the wake of the sacrilege incidents.
Sources in the SAD said last December, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia had convinced Banga to re-enter the mainstream Akali politics. Banga has rapport with the Phillaur voters, since before the 2012 polls, more than 30 villages of the Banga seat in Nawanshahr district were shifted to the nearby Phillaur segment. Asked to react to all the activity in the SAD, the CPS said: “The ED has summoned my wife and brother just to get a few papers, since the family business is run on joint accounts.”
“Everyone has the right to pitch for ticket but Banga and Phillaur have attended only a few marriages in the constituency and people have started making stories that any of the two could replace me in the 2017 elections,” He said, adding: “I’m not the kind to worry. As long as the party is behind me, I’ll fight another election; else I will enjoy my life,” said the CPS.