In a party where tickets are as hotly contested as elections, the new bait of Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh may surprise many. With less than a year to the Punjab elections, Amarinder has been welcoming turncoats into the party fold with a new bait--no candidates on as many as 75 seats.
On Tuesday, as he inducted 12 Bahujan Samaj Party leaders into the Congress, Amarinder, when asked if they had been promised tickets, said they had joined unconditionally. He said winnability would be the sole criterion to decide candidates and there were 75 seats where the party had no candidates. “We have 42 MLAs, and on the remaining 75 seats we will have to field defeated candidates who have the potential to win or find new ones,” the former CM said.
In the past two months, the Congress has been welcoming many into its fold and the joining of every leader and celebrity is being described as unconditional. In January, as Congress-turned-Akali leaders Deepinder Dhillon and Harinder Mann returned to the party, Amarinder had said that at times good candidates got left out of ticket distribution but no seats had been promised. But close aides of both Dhillon and Mann claim that after being left high and dry once by the Congress, both had joined only after being promised tickets.
So was Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans, who, too, had claimed that he had joined hands with the Congress in February “to see Punjab prosper and grow”. In less than a month, Hans prospered to the Congress list of Rajya Sabha nominees, only to be dropped unceremoniously.
Unlike the Aam Aadmi Party, which has no old-timers to protest the new entrants, turncoats jumping on the Congress bandwagon have ruffled the feathers of party old-timers “nurturing” their constituencies. A senior party leader, requesting anonymity, said, “Even the MLAs rallying behind Amarinder cannot be sure of getting a ticket. When tickets are decided in the Congress, many factors come into play, including kinship, loyalists of Punjab and Delhi leaders and caste and religion permutations. While it helps a political party in the perception game to be seen as sought after, creating too many ticket contenders will only muddy the waters once the race for tickets begins.”
Having lost the 2012 polls as 22 rebels had refused to bow down, Amarinder has been seeking early distribution of tickets. He had failed to get tickets for all those who had dumped the then People’s Party of Punjab ahead of the 2012 polls, when each factional leader worth his salt had been able to extract his pound of flesh in terms of seats leaving the party battle-weary before the polls and beaten after it.