The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) replaced two of its incumbent ministers as it named its six remaining candidates for the Punjab assembly polls on Monday evening. In place of industry minister Madan Mohan Mittal, 81, the party has named his former aide Parminder Sharma, ignoring his wish to pass the baton on to his son, Arvind Mittal. From Jalandhar West, though, Chunni Lal Bhagat, 84, has made way for his son and chosen heir, Mahinder Bhagat.
While both Chunni Lal and Mittal are aged above 75 — a cut-off set in the BJP by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for contesting polls — in Mittal’s exclusion, allegations of corruption against him played a key part, sources said.
Two other ministers, Anil Joshi and Surjit Kumar Jyani, will again fight from Amritsar North and Fazilka, respectively. Som Parkash, one of the party’s Dalit faces, has been named from Phagwara. Former minister Manoranjan Kalia will again seek to wrest Jalandhar Central. Except Som Parkash, who got the ticket despite opposition by state unit president Vijay Sampla, this list too has Sampla’s stamp.
With this, the BJP has announced candidates for all 23 seats that it contests while alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fights the remaining 94 out of the 117.
Mittal’s replacement Sharma, who will make his poll debut, is a doctor who also remained the district planning board chairman. A one-time supporter of Mittal, Sharma had announced his wish to contest four months ago.
Sources also said that corruption charges against Mittal were “too blatant” to be ignored. Mittal was the proxy legislature group leader of the BJP, because the designated leader, Chunni Lal, was inactive for most of the five years.
But Mahinder Bhagat could not be ignored as Chunni Lal’s heir because the constituency has significant votes of the Bhagat community loyal to the family, said a senior leader not willing to be named.
It was on Wednesday last that the party had announced its first list of 17 names, which included five first-timers and a second chance for seven candidates who had lost the 2012 polls.