Denying the ticket to sitting MP Sukhdev Singh Libra, 81, and also overlooking retired bureaucrat Dr Amar Singh, the Congress has fielded grassroots leader and four-time MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, 56, from the Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes. He is in direct contest with Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) candidate, real-estate baron Kulwant Singh.
Dharamsot’s local connect ensured that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi handpicked this leader from the Baazigar community. He is the MLA from Nabha assembly segment of Patiala, but would be strong in Fatehgarh Sahib that has significant population of his community. Earlier, he has remained MLA from Amloh, part of Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha seat, for three terms before Amloh was de-reserved and Nabha was declared reserved.
From a modest fmily, Dharamsot has made his place in the Congress hierarchy through hard work. A Youth Congress activist then, Dharamsot was first elected in 1992 from Amloh and remained a junior minister in the Beant Singh regime. He lost in 1997, but made a comeback in 2002 and consolidated his position with victories in 2007 and 2012 polls.
Fatehgarh Sahib segment is spread across three districts — Fatehgarh Sahib ( three assembly seats), Sang r ur (one) and Ludhiana (four) — but while Dharamsot, known as an impressive orator, has good connections in Fatehgarh Sahib district, he has tough task ahead as taking along the leadership of Ludhiana, Sangrur and Libra would be an uphill task. Already, former minister Ishar Singh Meharban has joined the SAD.
Former SAD stalwart Libra, who had switched loyalties to Congress before the 2009 LS polls and holds a significant Panthic votebank, is disgruntled as he had requested the Congress to allot the ticket to his grandson.
Dharamsot also has to win over Raikot MLA Gurcharan Singh Boparai, brother of Dr Amar Singh. Dr Singh was denied the ticket despite being considered close to Congress national leader Digvijaya Singh.
Dharamsot, however, said he felt “privileged” for the confidence shown in him by the party. “I started from a poor family and have always done positive politics. I will request all leaders for support to win the seat for Congress president Sonia Gandhi.”
On the aside, allotment of the ticket to Dharamsot is a disadvantage to Patiala MP Preneet Kaur. Dharamsot being busy with his own LS campaign would mean de pletion of resources for Preneet, as her husband and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh is contesting from Amritsar against BJP’s Arun Jaitley. Nabha and Patiala Urban, the assembly segments represented by Dharamsot and Amarinder respectively, have proved key to Preneet’s victories.