The Congress’ search for a suitable candidate from the Bholath constituency following its spokesperson Sukhpal Khaira’s exit from the party is likely to ruffle feathers of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal.
If sources are to be believed, the Congress leadership is trying to rope in former SAD minister Balbir Singh Miani and project him as party’s face for the forthcoming assembly elections to fill the void created by its former MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira who recently joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Miani is a prominent Lubana leader from Tanda and is known to wield considerable influence in the neighbouring Bholath constituency.
He is being considered the best bet against Akali stalwart Bibi Jagir Kaur, with whom he does not share a good rapport. Jagir Kaur heads the dera of Sant Prem Singh Murale Wale in Beghowal and observes Sant’s anniversary on a big scale. Miani holds a parallel function in his village on the same day as his family too has been closely associated with the late sect leader.
The rivalry between the two families dates back to greater Punjab days. Miani’s father Chaudhary Lakhi Singh had contested from Kapurthala seat in 1962 on Akali ticket and defeated Jagir Kaur’s father-inlaw Harnam Singh who was the Congress nominee.
Balbir Singh Miani won two consecutive elections from Tanda in 1997 and 2002 and was a made a minister in 1999. In 2007, he lost to the Congress candidate by a margin of 12,806 votes.
Not giving him another chance, the SAD replaced him with Arvinder Singh Rasoolpur in 2012 from the newly carved Urmur constituency but failed to wrest the seat. He was accused of sabotage and was sidelined in the party.
Miani was non-committal on the possibility of his switching political loyalties. “The political scene is very unstable. Lot of things will be happening in the coming few months but so far there is nothing that I can share with the media,” he said.
Sources in the SAD, however, said if the Congress succeeds in poaching Miani, it would be a big jolt for the ruling party, adding that he still had the potential to win the seat. “Although he is Lubana by caste, he finds acceptability in other social groups as well,” said a senior Akali leader.
District Congress president Sunder Sham Arora, when contacted, said only the senior leadership could tell if such a move was underway.
“Lots of people are interested in joining the Congress due to an upswing in its popularity,” the district Congress president further said.
Another Congress leader, who did not want to be named, said if Miani was taken to Bholath, the party’s Urmur candidate Sangat Singh Gilzian could also breathe easy.
Meanwhile, the SAD leadership is promoting former Tanda market committee chairman Lakhwinder Singh Lakhi, another Lubana leader in place of Rasoolpur. He has started distributing cheques and freebies to the constituents of Urmur.